Everyone has been experienced being an audience member and not wanting to “be there.” It’s the job of a presenter or group leader to keep people engaged with the content. Too many people fail in recognizing the importance of this when speaking in front of a crowd. The result is justified boredom.
Here are five tips for keeping an audience interested.
Bring Your Passion
Why would you expect your audience to care about something when you deliver a presentation in a monotone? You shouldn’t. No matter the topic of conversation, you need to bring your passion to it. People will trust you, and what you’re saying, more when you bring your emotional side to it. And when people trust you, they’ll want to listen to your ideas.
Passion doesn’t look the same in every scenario. Not everyone needs to be—nor should be—motivational in their delivery. It’s about being authentic and a bit vulnerable. You’re already letting down your guard by getting up in front of a group. At that point, there’s no reason not to open up enough so your communication keeps people locked onto your words.
Research the Audience
Knowledge is an asset when developing strategic communication. This absolutely applies to audience engagement. The backgrounds of people in a group will make a huge difference in how you should reach them. Don’t tell people in an anti-animal cruelty group how you had a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs. Background research is essential to avoiding as faux pas like this. It’s also going to work to your advantage. If you know the interests and history of your audience, you can incorporate those into your talk. Showing how they relate to what you’re saying, and being generally interested, will go a long way with people.
Lecturing has been proven ineffective compared to active learning. This means you need to break out of the habit of simply telling and get everyone involved with your content. Part of the reason people are resistant to interactive engagement is because it’s not cut and dry like lecturing. However, there are some solid options for facilitating this kind of back and forth in your presentation.
Polls and surveys are one method that pique the interest of audience members. You can easily build these into your presentation with a survey and polling app. Poll Everywhere is one of the best options for this. It’s user friendly, as participants can respond to polls directly through their smartphones or other devices.
You can also create simple games to keep people interested in what you’re saying. However, don’t expect people to care about these if you just throw them in as an afterthought. Take some time to make them relevant and interesting. Bonus points if you tailor them specifically to your audience—both with questions and prizes.
Share a Personal Story
Personal stories are often effective for building interest. This is rooted in the basic ideology of “show, don’t tell.” Simply saying something is a certain way might be enough for some people. But wouldn’t you rather hear how someone’s life was directly affected by what they’re telling you? There are many ways to improve your storytelling technique. Being real and authentic, however, is always important to this. Organic delivery is going to be more effective than reciting a speech you memorized beforehand.
You’re sure to lull people to sleep if you drone on with predictable information and presentation tactics. Conversely, giving them something out of the ordinary will get their attention, and have them wanting more. Find some statistics that highlight your points in a big way. Use comparisons to translate those numbers into understandable terms. If you’re giving a talk on carbon emissions, don’t just say how many tones of carbon dioxide are released each year due to human activity. Tell people the equivalency in something they can conceptualize—like refrigerators or gallons of water.
Surprising an audience can also work to your advantage if you bring interesting props, people, or other incentives to the table. This obviously can’t be done on a grand scale in every scenario; but it’s always worth considering how you can keep people engaged this way.
There are a lot of things to consider when trying to keep an audience’s attention. It’s too late, however, to start think about thing once you’re in the group setting. Prepare beforehand by learning to engage people with these strategies.