“You can break through resistance by changing your attitude. Quick. Let’s try it out. Everyone, stand up!”
With this simple command in front of 900 audience members, the energy in the room exploded. Speaking at the Professional Business Women’s Conference, Martha Beck, life coach and author, directed audience members to grab a partner and go through an exercise demonstrating how being "centered" and using positive mental imagery creates results. What could have been considered an “off-subject” command, the result created huge credibility, attention, and powerful engagement.
When you’re speaking, remember to disrupt the pattern. Attention is maintained by making changes in how you communicate throughout the talk.
There are two levels of communication: passive and active.
Passive techniques involve things the presenter can do to break the pattern that do not actively involve the audience.
- Use the B Key in PowerPoint. Cause the slide to go blank by hitting the “B” key. That simple action returns total attention to you. Share a case study without the visual distraction of slides. Hit the "B" button again to return to the slides.
- Gestures, Voice, Eye Contact, Movement, Pausing. Create visual pictures. Deliver with vocal variety. Look at the audience. Move away from the lectern. Pause to let things soak in. Changing the pattern of delivery makes your talk more dynamic.
- Stories. Add a real life example to your presentation for impact.
- Props. Demos. Videos. Change things up by adding other media.
Active audience involvement techniques involve the audience to change the pattern.
- Questions. Ask rhetorical or literal questions. Ask for a show of hands. Acknowledge the answers and fold the information into your presentation.
- Draw out their experiences related to the topic. Ask people to share with the group relevant personal experience.
- Small group discussion. Like Martha Beck, take a break from your presentation by asking people to partner for a few minutes with others to brainstorm, tell a story, or do some activity.
- Interview audience members. Do a Jimmy Fallon type interview with selected people in the audience.
- Get a few people up on stage. Discuss or illustrate critical points you want to make.
Do you fear losing control? Be crisp and clear in your directions. Project your voice. "Can I get your attention back up here, please." They will respond.
Whatever the small risks involved with audience participation, the benefit for us as presenters far outweighs the risks. Involved audiences are not bored or sleeping.
These techniques and more can be found in our two top rated workshops, PowerSpeaking and FastTrackSpeaking.
Alternatively, we invite you to describe what the most unusual way you’ve seen a speaker get people involved. All those who submit an entry will be up for a drawing for our PowerSpeaking book, SpeakingUp: Surviving Executive Presentations.