5 Powerful Ways To Effectively Engage an Audience When You Present

To fully Engage an audience when presenting is always going to be a challenge for the speaker.

While examining what causes careless (and expensive) household accidents, the British Bank Lloyds TSB made an interesting discovery: The average adult attention span has dropped from 12 minutes a decade ago to just 5 minutes now. Which makes it vital for the speaker to engage the audience in the initial moments. 

Here’s the first thing you, as a presenter, needs to know about yourself:

You are the artist here, get as creative as you want to be, and be sure to be a versatile one.

Despite the reduced attention span, the speaker can still make their presentation impactful and engaging by following these guidelines while working on the speech and while giving the speech.

The Modeling and Writing Phase

You’ll want to structure your speech in such a way that interests the audience and help you make your point seamlessly.

1. Understanding Learning Styles

Communication Coach Alex Lyon talks about Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic learners and how a speaker can use these learning styles to effectively appeal to a wide range of listeners. 

Auditory Learners:

Adding elements that are appealing to the ears in your speech can enhance the auditory learners interest. Use of metaphors, literation possibly rhymes, can help pump up the normal crafted language used for the speech. 

Visual Learners:

To best attract the visual learners in the audience, moving with purpose and use of visual aids can be of great use. Visual aids if used smartly can help convey the point seamlessly.

A real life example of the audience getting actively more engaged through visual presentation and use of prop is on airplanes. People tend to be more focused when an actual person demonstrates how to use different things in case of emergency in the plane. 

Kinesthetic Learners (Physical):

Asking for volunteers to come up and stage and making them do a physical task is another effective way to engage the audience.

Classic example of this method working is to look at any magician’s act. They always invite a volunteer from the audience to be a part of their act which gets more people interested in it. 

learning styles to be a more engaging speaker
The three primary learning styles

2. Whet Your Analyzing Skills!

Go on the internet and research as much as possible, the goal is to make your speech audience-centric. For that you need to know what people are talking about around that topic. Reddit is a great place to engage in online discussion and have a good insight on people’s opinions. This helps to add depth and broaden the spectrum of the speech. 

Once you have a good idea about the topic, think People!

To make the speech about the people in the audience, and how it can make me more impactful, know your audience well. 

Relatability can come in handy, for example, say the show is going to take place in Delhi, India. By researching about the culture of that place, the habits, the beliefs and adding such familiar elements to the speech can not only be useful but also establish a closer connection between the audience and the speaker. 

While adding information and stats to the presentation be sure to state the site. As misinformation and untrusted sources can hamper the audience’s interest and faith in what the speaker is saying. 

Roll Camera, Speak!

After you’re done modeling your speech, it’s time to deliver it! Here are few things to keep in mind that will help make your delivery more gripping.

1. Start Right

Attention span has dropped to 2 mins since the discovery made by The British Bank Lloyds TSB. So while working on the draft speech know that you will have little time to start strong. 

To start strong the speaker needs a good intro, it can be anything. From a well-written speech to the use of music to grab attention.

Know what you want to radiate from your speech and how to say it, being excited about the whole thing will give a feeling of appreciation towards the audience. 

Here’s an example of Ken Robinson.

Opening line: It’s been great isn’t it? I’ve been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I’m leaving.

One wouldn’t have guessed such an odd way to start the speech. But Sir Ken Robinson starts off by saying something which immediately connected him with the audience through icebreaking and humor.

Another reason why it worked in connecting with the audience is because of its honesty. Being real and honest with the audience establishes a feeling of transparency.

2. Storytelling and Visuals (Know their Potential) 

Storytelling

Play the role of an Author – write your own story.

The major advantage of this approach is you will have full control of how you want to put forward your speech, you can bring in your own characters and make it relatable.

One of the great examples of engaging the audience through storytelling is Tim Urban’s : Inside the mind of a master procrastinator Ted Talk.

Here, he has shown the simplest and childish use of characters (especially the panic monster!) can fully engage the audience through storytelling while addressing the topic presented. 

tim urban engaging an audience with visuals and storytelling
Take inspiration from someone else’s story

In today’s time, with sites like Reddit, Wattpad and more story-centric sites, stories are more accessible. This will not only help you get the audience engaged but people will also get interested in the author’s work, be sure to give the credits! 

Visuals

Under this comes a variety of things, it can be a PowerPoint, a video to go along with the speech or an acted-out sketch or the props used.

An example of how an acted out sketch and props can come in handy:

Kenny Sebastian and Kanan Gill display the role of sketch and the only prop, flat lime Soda, in their Comedy Sketch.

Both storytelling and the use of proper visuals can do the magic of grabbing the attention of the audience in those initial moments.

3. Get the Audience Involved

Ask more Questions

Creating a feeling of discussion by asking rhetorical questions to which there can be a simple yes or no answer makes the connection between the speaker and the audience more dynamic. 

Here is an example of getting the audience involved by asking them questions by Arthur Benjamin from his TED talk ‘Faster Than a Calculator’.

(Starts with a warm welcome speech)

By any chance, did anyone in the audience happen to bring with them this afternoon a calculator?

Arthur Benjamin

The important thing to notice about this question is the addition of another good element for making a good speech, a prop! Here, it is the calculator.

Arthur starts with simple questions, like asking the audience for numbers and he connects the audience with the people on stage by having a full little quiz session.

The goal is to have more engagement and not load the audience with too tricky questions.

Making a good impact on the audience is important and a good way to do that is by doing your homework right!

Later in the above video, Arthur asks the audience to give him numbers to solve, which he answers correctly. Here he adds the element of uncertainty on his side by asking for numbers and by answering them correctly he conveys to the audience that he is all prepared for his speech!

Have fun physical tasks

The speaker can have a more engaging audience by asking them to do something physical.

For example, the speaker can ask the audience to cross their arms, talk a little bit about comfort or comfort zone while everyone’s arms are crossed and then ask the audience to cross their arms in opposite directions, which will cause discomfort among the audience because they are not used to folding their arms like that. 

This not only gets the audience more involved but also helps the speaker make their point.

engaging an audience with physical activities

To Conclude

The goal is to impact the audience in a positive way, and this impact demands meticulous work on the speech. For maximum engagement, they should have a reason to think about what the speaker has said even after the presentation. 

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.