speech audience

11 Engaging Ways To Interact With The Audience

While delivering a speech, have you ever glanced at the audience to see their reaction to what you’ve said, only to realize that there is no reaction at all because almost everybody has zoned out? Alternatively, have you ever found yourself sitting in the audience, daydreaming your way through an incredibly boring speech?

In both of these cases, it wasn’t the audience but the speaker who was responsible for the audience’s lack of attention.

That’s because it’s the speaker’s responsibility to interact with the audience, and to deliver a speech that’s not just informative but also engaging.

And avoiding–sometimes downright shaking off–this onus is a mistake that many, many speakers make. Often at the cost of the success of their own speech.

Audience Participation is active response by an audience to a live show or broadcast.

Grabbing and holding onto the audience’s attention is not an easy fear. However, it’s not impossible either.

If you don’t want crickets from the audience the next time you deliver a speech, it’s important to not deliver crickets from your end too. That is, don’t just dive into your speech and refuse to resurface from it. Instead, you need to interact with your audience. You don’t have to talk at them. You’ve got to talk to them. And since talking is a two-way process, you want to hear their response too.

Interacting with the audience might sound difficult, but it’s not, really.

There are many engaging ways of interacting with the audience, like playing games, having live Q & A sessions, getting them to join you on the stage, using props, and organizing Give-Aways!

The strategies you chose depend on the overall goal as well as the duration of your speech. Also, you need to do some advance preparation by researching your audience and what it’s going to be primarily composed of.

But first, why should you interact with the audience?

Importance Of Interacting And Connecting With The Audience

There are many reasons why it’s absolutely imperative for a speaker to interact with their audience. One of the primary reasons is that speeches often last for a very long time.  Interacting with the audience gives them a reprieve from listening, and offers them an opportunity to speak out. This makes them feel more involved with and connected to the event and with you i.e the speaker.

 The interaction will also work to make your talk memorable, and make the audience connect with you. If the audience has fun and feels a kinship with you, they will make conscious attempts to pay attention to your speech and engage with you. Also, it’s more likely they will be drawn in to hear you speak again in the future.

Another reason why it’s important to interact with the audience is because audience’s attention span is limited. If you don’t successfully keep them engaged, then sooner or later, they will start fiddling with their phones or simply zone out. Yikes!

Engaging Ways To Interact With The Audience

engaging the audience

Now that you know the importance of audience interaction, let’s move onto the next step: how to interact with the audience.

1. Tell A Story…And Ask Them To Guess The End 

Stories are a necessary ingredient in most public speeches. This is because they lend a personal note to the talk, and make the experience more memorable for the attendees. However, one way of taking storytelling up a level is to involve your audience in it. A great way of doing that is by asking your audience what you think will happen next.

This will make your audience think and even analyze what you’re saying. This renewed attention is likely to last for longer than the duration of your story and to spill into your general talk, as well.

Even better: ask your audience what happens in the end, but don’t immediately tell them if they’re right. Hold onto the ending for a while, and weave in the answer where you feel it fits better during the rest of your talk. For instance, when you feel like you’re beginning to lose their interest again–throw in that ending!

The following is a great example of how you can use storytelling to ramp up your presentation! Notice the speaker’s body-language, their story selection, as well as the delivery of the same. 

2. Ask Them Questions

Another great way to make your presentation interactive is by asking your audience questions. Like guessing what happens next in a story, this will pique their interest, and get those analytical wheels in their head turning.

You could directly ask an audience member a question. Or, you could request the audience to answer with a show of hands. There are many ways of going about this. Just make sure that you prepare your questions beforehand.

Here’s an excellent way through which you can incorporate questions to ask your audience! Notice how the audience interaction improves with the speaker actively asking them questions.

3. Use Props!

Another excellent way of engaging your audience is by using props. Props not only make the presentation more fun and visually appealing, but if used right, will also make it easier for the audience to understand your message.

However, one thing to keep in mind before using props to spruce up your presentation is to keep in mind that the prop shouldn’t just be an added accessory. It’s not just there to be an entertaining element. Don’t choose a prop that seems redundant.

Rather, choose a prop that drives forward the point you’re trying to make. There are many props that you can use: a chair, a doll, a stick, a flower…Anything can be turned into a prop!

Below is an excellent example of how you can effectively use props to ramp up your presentation! Keep an eye on the speaker’s use of prop, and the way they use it to make the presentation better!

4. Play A Quiz!

Another way to engage your audience more deeply in your presentation is by quizzing them!

If you wish to quiz the audience to get an idea how of how familiar they are with the topic, you can add the quiz at the beginning of your speech. This can be a great bonding experience for them. Alternatively, you could add the quiz somewhere in the middle of your presentation, when you feel like the audience’s attention has begun wandering to other things.

Like the props, make sure that the quiz is relevant to the topic at hand. Also, keep in mind to prepare the questions beforehand. If you don’t want to hand out actual papers to the audience, you could have them directed to a website that they can use to solve the quiz on their phones.

Following is a how to on making an interactive quiz using PowerPoint! You can use the format in the video. Alternatively, you could take inspiration from it and come up with your own idea or go the other way and use a quiz website!

5. Invite Them To Join You On The Stage! 

If you want to take the audience’s involvement in your speech to the next level, you could invite them to the spot traditionally thought to be reserved for the speaker: the stage.

This is an excellent way of adding a kick of anticipation to your speech.

There are many ways in which you could do this. You could ask for volunteers, and then invite them on stage for an activity or game. Or, you could ask if anyone would like to add something to what you’ve just said, or talk about their experience, and hand over the mic to them!

social media for audience interaction

6. Alternatively…YOU Get Off The Stage!

If you aren’t comfortable inviting people on stage, you could go the other way and step off of it yourself.

This is an amazing opportunity to directly interact with the audience and to make them feel like you’re one of them. Direct, face-to-face interactions with the audience members are a great, great way of making your speech memorable. Not just this, but the increased proximity adds that personal touch to the speech that so many speeches lack.

So, next time you’re delivering a speech, don’t be scared to push past the boundaries of the stage!

7. Get Them Moving!

Having to sit still for prolonged periods of time is a doorway to boredom. And boredom is what makes the audience tune out your awesome speech.

So, if you feel like you’ve spoken for a long time without giving your audience a break, get them moving! You could do this by making them play a game. Or, you could simply request them to stand and do a couple of fun exercises like clapping their hands or jumping!

Not only will it increase the overall energy level in the room, but it might also successfully draw out that sought-after burst of laughter from the audience!

Ellen DeGeneres is known for her audience interaction! Here’s a clip of how she keeps her audience moving! You can take inspiration from her approach to improve your audience’s engagement and get them moving!

8. Play Games With Them!

Who doesn’t like a good game, right? Especially if it’s a two-hour presentation, games are a great way of refreshing your audience and giving them a break from the monotony of listening.

Also, games don’t necessarily have to be just for fun and frolics. You can customize a game that actually adds to your topic. For example, you could use live polls or have a live Q & A on a website. You could also have an impromptu debate competition to give them a chance to tell what they think about the topic.

9. Get Them To Tweet

Gone are the days when cellphones were a luxury–or a distant dream. Today, anybody and everybody have a cellphone in their pocket. Although the general goal is to keep the audience’s attention off of the cellphone and focused on your presentation, there are ways in which you can use to your advantage the underlying human instinct of fingers twitching towards phone screens.

One way of doing this is by using Twitter. You can have a unique hashtag for your talk, and encourage the audience to tweet their questions, suggestions, or ideas on it. Then, address them live! This is an excellent way of engaging people who are shy or simply don’t wish to speak up.

10. Invite An Expert Panel

An expert panel is a great way of piquing your audience’s interest. Inviting guest speakers also gives the audience a break from having to listen to the same speaker for long stretches of time, and also makes it a more educational experience.

However, make sure that the speakers are relevant to and well-versed with the topic at hand. You could ask the audience to prepare any questions that they’d like to ask the speakers in advance. This will keep them interested and engaged throughout. Also, having distinguished speakers will improve the attention level as well as anticipation for your event!

Following is an excellent expert panel discussion that shows how it can improve audience’s interest during a speech! As you watch, try understanding why particular experts were invited to the panel. You can use the information to invite a panel to your discussion, depending on the topic at hand.

11. Incorporate Giveaways And Gifts!

Giveaways are a great, great way to increase your audience’s excitement levels. After all, who doesn’t like to win something, right? You could have a prize for a game, or simply give a small token of your appreciation to the audience at the end of your speech.

The giveaway doesn’t necessarily have to be something grandiose either! In a room full of people, the chance of winning even a small gift will work to boost anticipation–and competition! Also, gifts can also be branded to work as a Brand Goodwill, which will work to promote your company!

Need more tips for how to interact with the audience? Check out our article on Interactive Presentations: 7 Foolproof Ways To Engage The Audience!

12. Adding Augmented Reality

Another excellent way of getting the audience up and engaged is by using augmented reality. Virtual event planning is in high demand, and while the cost might be a little steep, it definitely pays off. That’s because AR is slowly seeping into all aspects of our life, and events are no exception! 

AR is an excellent way to visually engage the audience. Not only this but its relative “newness”, when compared to the other items on this list, make it a novel and memorable audience experience. It also boosts audience interaction and makes the event more lively and fun. 

So, if you can work through the tech and cost required, make sure to use it in your next speech!

Here is an example of how augmented reality can be employed to take your presentation’s visual engagement to another level! As you watch, keep a careful eye on the speaker as well as how they use AR to draw in their audience.

Here is an example of augmented reality use in a presentation. As you watch the video, notice the way in which the speaker employs the technology and drives forth his point

13. Introduce A Fireside Chat

Fireside chat are another great way to boost your audience’s involvement. Fireside chats are an excellent alternative to traditional Q & A sessions and speeches. So what’s a Fireside Chat?  Basically, a Fireside Chat is an informal conversation between a presentation moderator and the audience. The concept has evolved into a two-way debate and has been popularized by tech startup community events like TechFire and StartUp Grind. 

Fireside Chat are an excellent way to glean the audience’s insight in a first-hand manner. If done successfully, they can make the speech or presentation a wholesome, interactive and unforgettable experience. 

The following video demonstrates how having a Fireside Chat can boost the audience’s overall experience and also make it a better experience for the speaker. As you see it, keep a lookout on both: the audience as well as the moderators and how they both interact with each other. 

The following video demonstrates how having a Fireside Chat can boost the audience’s overall experience and also make it a better experience for the speaker. As you see it, keep a lookout on both: the audience as well as the moderators and how they both interact with each other.

14. Using Live Barometers

Live Barometers are an excellent method to not only engage the audience but also to get their insight into important parts of the presentation. Live Barometers, also called body voting, involves the moderator introducing a statement to the audience. Say, something like, “The Glass Ceiling Doesn’t Exist.” 

Next, the audience members move either left or right depending on what they feel about the statement. The degree to which they move depends on how much they agree/disagree with the statement.

Next, the moderator can ramp up the interaction by asking people why they feel a certain way about the presentation. Audience members can also debate with each other. If, by the end of the session, someone’s opinion alters, they can move along the two extremes! 

Here’s an excellent example of how you can incorporate live Barometers in your speech to make it more engaging & how you can frame your questions for the audience. 

Here’s an excellent example of how you can incorporate live Barometers in your speech to make it more engaging & how you can frame your questions for the audience.

15. Gamefying The Presentation 

If you don’t want the audience to be physically moving while playing a game, you could also have them play virtual games. Virtual games not only add a dose of fun, but they are also more feasible as not all members are required to physically move, which can be a barrier if you have limited space.

There are many different games that you can get the audience to play. Polls are one example. You could also have a live quiz set up for the audience. You could also have a trivia–or even play charades! 

16. Using Videos 

Using Videos in your presentation to increase audience’s interest might sound like overused advice, however, it’s overemphasized for a reason. Videos are an excellent, cost-effective way to add a dose of creativity to the presentation.

If you’re on a tight budget or have time constraints that make it difficult to be more creative with your involvement tactics, sticking to the basics is a great way to not totally neglecting it. Videos provide a reprieve from the monotony of a slideshow, and if your lineup is creative and novel, videos can work just as well as the other elements mentioned above! 

Understanding The Learning Pattern Of Your Audience 

If you want to have an out-of-the-ordinary and personalized strategy to ramp up your audience’s engagement, figuring out their learning pattern well in advance is a great way to go! 

We’ve written extensively on this topic here 6 Types of Learners (And How to Speak Them for Maximum Impact). But you can read on to get the gist…

Broadly speaking, people’s learning types are as follows: 

Type Of LearnerLearning PatternInteraction Ideas
Visual Learners Visualization of ideasVideos, Props, Augmented Reality
Solitary Learners Individualized Learning One-on-one Interaction, Quiz, Twitter
Kinesthetic Learners Hands-On Learning Barometers, Live Games, Physical Give-aways
Writing Learners Pen & Paper Quiz, Questionnaires, Surveys
Group Learners Group Collaboration Panel Discussions, Fireside Chat, Group Games
Auditory Learners Verbal Learners Live debates, Audios, Group Discussions

Here is a more in-depth explanation of how you can use the audience’s learning pattern to make your presentation more interactive:

Visual/ Spatial Learners

Visual Learners gain information through visualizing relationships and ideas. They learn from essays, charts, diagrams, maps, pictures, etc. i.e through a variety of visual elements.

How To Engage Them: If you wish to engage them, ramp up your use of the above-mentioned elements in your presentation, and also use videos, games, props, and Augmented Reality! 

Solitary Learners

Solitary or interpersonal learners prefer learning alone, as opposed to learning with other people or a crowd. They retain information best when they’re doing it by themselves, rather than when they have company.

How To Engage Them: While it’s not possible to be physically alone during a jam-packed presentation, you can use their individualized temperament by employing interactive methods that require them to work alone like quizzes, using Twitter, having a one-on-one discussion by inviting them on stage, having individual giveaways, etc. 

Kinesthetic Learners

As the name itself explains, kinesthetic learners have a more hands-on approach to learning, as they learn through the use of their body and experiential learning. They learn through body and hand movements, and by physically manipulating objects in their surroundings.

How To Engage Them: To involve this type of audience, it’s best to use live Barometers, getting them moving, giving physical giveaways, and playing live games. 

Reading/Writing Learners

Writing Learners have a learning pattern that follows putting things into pen-and-paper to glean a better understanding of things. They learn through text perusal, note making, exhaustive research, etc.

How To Engage Them: If you feel that your audience is going to be composed majorly of writing learners, then increase your use of quizzes, questionnaires, and surveys to ramp up their involvement. 

Group/Interpersonal Learners

These types of learners learn best with group collaboration rather than by themselves. They’re the opposite of solitary learners, and work excellent in group settings and with other people.

How To Engage Them: Group discussions, team games, panel discussions, fireside chat, etc. Are great ways of getting them up and involved in your presentation! 

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners, as insinuated by the name, learn best when information is narrated or verbally spoken. Learning, for them, is better done through means like a creative song, or a podcast, or other auditory mediums.

How To Engage Them: If you wish to involve them better in your presentation, then the best way to do so is by using audio stimuli like group discussions, podcasts, videos, live debates, physical and virtual games, etc! 

How Do You Get The Audience To Participate?

audience interaction

You’ve done the research. You’ve done the prep. And so, using every ounce of your courage, you go ahead with your strategy to engage the audience…

…And they don’t respond.

What do you do in this situation?

Do you just give up and move onto the next part of your speech?

Or do you attempt to get them to engage again?

Hint: It’s the second option.

To help you out, here are a few ways using which you can deal with an unresponsive audience:

1. Focus On The Ones Who Are Responsive

When a presentation isn’t going as expected, a lot of us tend to hyper focus on the bad instead of the good. This might make you even more nervous, and cause you to mess up your presentation.

So, instead of focusing on those who aren’t paying attention, try to keep your eyes on the ones that are. Involve them further in your presentation. It will help you plow through the rest of your speech with confidence.

2. Encourage Them To Participate

There are many ways in which you can do this. You could directly ask someone to answer a question. Or, if you prefer a more roundabout way, you could ask the question to the audience in general. It’s important to create an atmosphere that encourages audience participation. Don’t shut down people if you don’t agree with what they’re saying.

Let them speak, and then tell them respectfully where you think they went wrong. Don’t lose your cool if someone asks too many questions or keeps repeating the same question. Also, try and give the audience regular breaks to collect their thoughts and themselves.

3. Change Your Strategy

Another way to get the audience interested is by switching up the format of your speech. While this might seem daunting at first, if you’ve practiced your speech well enough, shuffling things around shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

So, if you’ve just wrapped up a long stretch of talk and feel like you’ve lost the audience and the next part of your speech involves more talk…

Switch it up.

Push ahead that Q/A you’ve saved for the end of the speech.

Or, play that game you were supposed to play halfway through your presentation.

Switch your strategy!

4. Don’t Take It Personally

Another important thing is to not take your audience’s lack of attention personally. Or, even worse: To get offended and let them know you’re taking it personally. There’s nothing worse then losing your cool at the audience, and once you do this, there’s no going back.

Rather than letting it get to you, move on. If you get angry or let your frustration show, it will show the audience that you’re truly not worth their attention. Not to mention you’ll lose the few people who were actually interested in what you had to say–as well as future public speaking opportunities that might’ve come your way from someone watching in the crowd.

5. Make It A Learning Experience

Use what you learned from your experience with an unresponsive audience to prepare for any future instances when your audience might not be as interactive as you’d hoped them to be.

List out where you think you went wrong, what you could’ve done to improve the speech, how the audience reacted to the things you did to refocus their attention, etc.

Next time you’re preparing to deliver a speech in public, prepare in advance. This way, you’ll have a strategy to fall back on if things go south.

Need more tips? Don’t worry! We’ve written article on 5 Ways To Grab An Audience’s Attention When You’re Losing It! Check it out for some more help!

Conclusion

To sum up, keeping the audience interactive and encouraged doesn’t need to be a daunting task. All you need to do is strategize beforehand by sprinkling interactive activities like games, Q & A sessions, give-aways, etc. throughout your presentation, you can keep your audience’s attention piqued. And keep your cool if things don’t go the way you planned: after all, you can always switch things up.

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.