Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Audience Engaged
Posted by Anni M.
As I have discussed here before, audience engagement is perhaps the most important element of a successful presentation. I suppose that’s obvious—any performance fails if the audience is comatose—but it’s worth saying anyway. Often we spend so much time worrying about our notes, our outline, our timing, and our visuals, that we forget to cater our work to the crowd. Like snowflakes or fingerprints or people (for that matter), every crowd is unique. They each need a concierge’s diligent care. It’s like customer service for the theater.
In some cases, audience catering is an obvious art: if your audience is comprised of all women, steer clear of using male pronouns; if your audience is all under 30, don’t make references to Ronald Reagan. Other audience peccadilloes may be more difficult to detect. Consider your venue. Is there a religious affiliation? Do the attendees share a political bent? You can’t read their minds but you can do good research. Save yourself the embarrassment by arriving well prepared, knowing as much as you can about your audience.
There are some hard and fast rules that apply to any presentation, regardless of the audience demographic. Make sure your slides have bold-faced print, no less than 32-point size. You would not believe how many presenters make this elementary mistake. I wear glasses and my eyes do not appreciate strain. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. As I’ve mentioned several times before, don’t rely too heavily on your PowerPoint. Make eye contact. Engage people on an individual level. Remember also that beginnings and endings matter most. In the beginning, it’s your job to grab attention and to hold it. In the end, you must repeat your message without belaboring a point. It’s a fine balance but, when it’s done well, the audience leaves having learned your lesson.
Be excruciatingly selective with your data. Think of it this way: you’re a lawyer presenting a case before a jury of your peers. The wrong data can confuse your message, casting doubt on your conclusions. Superfluous data simply overwhelms the audience, while inadequate data leaves them feeling unsatisfied. Choose data that strongly supports your points, irrevocably and undeniably. Cite that data well in case anyone asks you to support your claims. Like in an academic paper, assume you will be held accountable for everything you say and do on stage.
As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs..