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In the current age of high speed internet, fast food and the sheer amount of content, the attention span of average individual is reducing constantly. Everyone is looking for ways of instant gratification. In such times, it might be tough to have audience engagement in your presentations.
If you are about to give a big presentation or a speech, your primary concern might be to retain the attention of the audience. Getting the audience to listen to you is a very important skill that you need to master to get the maximum impact of your presentation.
From amateur speakers to experienced speakers, there are a few ESSENTIAL GUIDELINES that everyone needs to stick to. Avoiding these would make way for your down fall in your journey to be a great speaker. Of course, there are always exceptions and you might break those rules for certain occasions. But, you still need to know the rules before you can break there.
Here is a list of things that you should keep in mind when giving a presentation to increase audience interaction.
1. Start Unusual
It is said that you have 7 seconds to capture someone’s interest. In the first few minutes of your presentation, the tone of what is to follow is set. In short, your presentation is judged based on the first few minutes. This is the time when you should win the audience’s trust and make them comfortable.
Everyone starts their presentation in the same boring way. Do something that would make you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Start with a funny anecdote or an intriguing fact or with a question that would force everyone to think. Start with an experiment or something that would ensure that everyone is awake and attentive, thereby increasing audience engagement.
2. Speak Slowly
Many amateur speakers make the mistake of speaking too fast. They are on a time limit and there is a lot of ground to cover so they make up for it by speaking fast. But the fact is that if you rush too much, the audience will not be able to follow your presentation. If you speak too fast, the audience will lose track of what you are trying to say.
Everyone needs time to understand what you said, process that information and make sense of it. Although by speaking fast, you would get a lot of content across to the audience, but our aim is audience engagement. The audience might HEAR a lot of information but might not be able to understand it.
Tip: – Make sure to give take a medium pause of about 5-8 seconds after every paragraph. This would give time for the content to sink in as well as set the necessary gap for a change in topic in your presentation.
3. Use Images/Videos wisely
Images and videos speak a lot more than just words. Using great images or videos is a great way to engage the audience. During a presentation, the listener might get bored listening to the same voice for longer duration. In that case, images and videos provide a great way of spicing things up and creating a new experience.
Interesting visual content triggers the reward centers in the brain. All marketers know this and use visual imagery to the maximum to entice the user to buy their products. Remember the last time you saw an advertisement for McDonald’s? The burger looked so delicious that you HAD to get one right away! That is the power of using images and videos effectively.
So, make sure to include some beautiful images in your presentation to maximize audience engagement.
4. Tell Stories for audience engagement
Let’s accept it, listening to just facts and figures is plain boring. The whole point of giving a presentation is to engage the audience – not just bombard them with information. What better way to keep the audience active than to tell stories?
Telling stories compels the listener to make a visual image in their head of the characters/scenes. This way, stories are like a personal experience for the listener which keeps them engaged in your talk.
Stories are also a great way to get your message across. Instead of telling people that it we should not waste food, it would be stronger to tell them a story about a boy who died because someone wasted their food a lot.
5. Creating Handouts
Using handouts is an old-school way of engaging the audience and its power is very under-rated. Providing every person with a handout is an excellent way to increase audience engagement and interaction in your presentations.
In the handouts that you give, it would make the audience active if there is a puzzle which they need to solve in the middle of a presentation. This would not only give you time to rest, but also wake up the audience which might have lost interest in your presentation by now.
Giving information which the listeners might require to take away from the talk can be written on this handout. Even if the listener is not listening to your presentation, they would definitely READ the handout that was given to them during that time.
6. Interaction is the key
When giving a talk/speech/presentation it is primarily the speaker who is actively speaking and it is the listener who is actively listening. Just listening might make the audience lose interest because of just being engaged in listening. In such cases, interacting with the audience is one way to release some tension and relax the listener of just listening.
Do not by any means make your presentation a one-side communication. Asking generic questions which the audience can relate to will force the audience respond. This will force them to move their bodies by raising hands or answering your questions. Telling a joke will also relax the listener and make them respond.
Over to you
These are a few tips and techniques that you can use to engage your audience more in your presentations. There are many techniques which are used by various speakers. But these are the most basic ones which you definitely require along with good presentation skills for maximum benefit.
If you have overcome the fear of public speaking, and you have learnt how to engage the audience, you are on a great path towards becoming a professional speaker.
If you feel that you have some good strategies to keep the audience engaged, feel free to share it in the comments.