How to Tell if the Audience is Engaging with Your Public Speaking

5 min readMar 7, 2023

As public speakers, we all want to think that our audience is engaged with what we’re talking about, because an engaged audience is an audience that’s likely to learn things and to take tangible insights away with them.

The problem is that it isn’t always easy to tell whether people are engaging, which is where the tips from today’s article come in. And so without further ado, let’s take a closer look at how you can tell whether the audience is engaging with your talk.

How to Tell if the Audience is Engaging with Your Public Speaking

1. See if people are taking notes

If people are taking notes during your presentation, it’s a good indicator that they’re listening to what you’re saying and that they’re interested in the contents of your talk. Taking notes helps people to remember the information, and it means that they intend to look back on their notes in the future. Just be sure that they’re actually taking notes and not just sitting there doodling.

2. Look for eye contact

As a public speaker, it’s impossible to maintain eye contact with every single person in a large audience, but it’s a good idea to look out at your audience and to make eye contact with different individuals. If you can’t make eye contact, it’s because nobody’s actually looking at you, and if nobody’s looking at you then nobody’s engaged with what you’re saying. Because of that, a healthy amount of eye contact is an indicator of a decent presentation.

3. See whether they ask questions

If people ask questions at the end of your presentation, it’s a sign that they’re paying attention to what you’re talking about and are interested in learning more about the subject matter. If you finish your presentation, open up for questions and nobody raises their hand, it means one of two things — either you did such a good job that you covered everything, or nobody is listening. You can hope that it’s the former, but It’s more likely to be the latter.

4. Look for fidgeting

If people are fidgeting with their hands or shifting around in their seats, there’s a good chance that they’re not particularly engaged with what you’re saying, and not paying as much attention as you’d like. In fact, you can often use this as an informal metric throughout your presentation, and if you try to boost engagement then you should keep an eye out to see whether that fidget rate goes down.

5. Check whether they’re nodding their heads

When we hear something that we agree with, we naturally nod our heads. Because of that, we can often tell whether people are engaging with what we’re talking about by keeping an eye on whether they’re nodding along with what we’re saying. The same is true to a certain extent if they are shaking their heads. Although that’s generally a sign of negative engagement, at least it shows they’re listening!

6. Look for whether they’re leaning in

As with the previous point, we automatically lean forwards when people tell us something that catches our interest. For example, if someone’s talking about their new dress and they mention it cost them $10,000, we might naturally lean in and say, “Oh really?” If people are leaning in when you’re talking, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re engaged with what you’re talking about.

7. Look for phones and tablets

Phones and tablets are a mixed blessing, because some people use them to take notes or to record audio snippets when you’re covering something that they want to remember. However, they can also be used to play games or to check emails. So if people are using them, there’s a chance that they’re using them as a distraction to keep themselves entertained during an unengaging presentation. Fortunately, we can normally tell whether someone’s taking notes or whether they’re playing Angry Birds just by looking.

8. Ask them questions

This is a favorite technique of schoolteachers. If they suspect that someone in their class isn’t paying attention to what they’re saying, they’ll often ask them a question about what they’ve just been talking about to put them on the spot. We can’t quite do that when we’re delivering a keynote speech, but we can ask for a quick show of hands here and there, as long as we don’t overdo it.

9. Check your content

One good way to figure out whether people are engaging with what you’re talking about is to critically examine the content of your talk. If even you are struggling to find it interesting, there’s a good chance that the same is true for the people you’re talking to. Try to make sure that the content itself is as engaging as possible so that you give yourself the best possible chances of success.

10. Ask them!

This is more of a retrospective technique, but if you chat to people after the presentation is over, ask them what they thought and whether they found your talk engaging. If they are non-committal or say no, ask them for their feedback so that you can find ways to improve and to be more engaging the next time you’re booked to speak.


Now that you know our top tips for spotting whether your audience is engaging with your presentation, it’s over to you to put what you’ve learned today into action.

Remember that these are general rules to follow and that just because your audience isn’t doing these things, it doesn’t mean that they’re not engaging with your presentation. With that said, it could be a sign that you need to revisit your speaking style or the content of your presentations.

As always, be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments so that we can keep the discussion going. You can also follow us on your favorite social networking sites for more. We’ll see you soon for another article!

This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.