Strategies for Getting the Audience Involved in Your Presentation

Strategies for Getting the Audience Involved in Your Presentation

Last Updated: Sep 30, 2011
Getting your audience to participate in your presentation will make your message more readily received and more memorable. Here are three DON’TS and seven DO’S for getting your audience involved.

The most successful speaking events involve far more than action from the speaker, however stimulating his or her content and delivery might be. Speeches that grab and keep attention, stimulate agreement, and generate the speaker’s desired results happen only when the presenter mixes action with interaction. Although audiences in prior generations might have been content with sitting passively and listening stoically for extended periods, contemporary listeners are more likely to prefer participating openly and energetically.

At the outset, let’s observe three of the trite interactive attempts your audience will consider obsolete and distasteful, because they have heard them all before, and because they sound more suitable for an elementary classroom than a group of professional leaders.

ONE: Immediately following the introduction, the speaker says, “Good morning.” Automatically, audience members repeat her words. The speaker chides the group, “Oh come on, I’m sure you can do better than that. What’s the matter, not wide awake yet? Now let me hear a big-time ‘Good Morning’ from you. Say it loud and clear!”

Instantly, the speaker has demonstrated lack of creativity, relying on an opening people grew weary of years ago.

TWO: During the speech, the speaker says: “I’ll bet some of you in here have worked with people you have had difficulty communicating with. Am I right? Hold up your hand if that has happened in your work place.”

Here again, there’s no novelty or news. Even those who lift their hands are prone to think, “Been there, done that.”

THREE: To get people talking to one another and revved up, a motivational speaker instructs: “Turn to somebody you haven’t met yet, introduce yourself, and then say to each other, ‘You’re a terrific person with great talent, and I like you already.’”

Main problem here: Even though you have gotten every audience member to speak to a stranger, chances are strong they don’t believe what they just said. Why should they? Silently, the word “hokey” probably comes to mind.

Now let’s look at positive steps to get your audience involved meaningfully.

First, publicize your presentation as a participatory event. Have your host announce in newsletters and e-mails, “Our keynote speaker will bring us a highly interactive presentation about how we can strengthen our customer service.” Encourage your host to repeat that description in every reminder.

Second, weeks before your speech, solicit opinions about your topic and its relevance to the organization. Here’s how: From your host, get the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of at least four of the group’s most respected members. Ask your host to alert them that you will contact them. During your conversations, say: “What you just said would help me get an important point across during my presentation. During my speech, could I please call on you to repeat what you just said to me?” Fortunately, almost everyone will consent. This guarantees that several key people will stand and speak, which will prompt others to voice their reactions.

Third, tell your host which seating arrangement will foster discussion. Avoid traditional theatre seating, where people see the back of the heads in front of them, rather than faces. Ideally, aim for round tables seating 5-7 people. While many attendees would be too reticent to speak in front of 300 audience members, sharing thoughts at a small table won’t seem intimidating.

Fourth, have your host furnish necessary materials, such as pens, pencils, and note pads. This way you won’t cause disorder when you say, “The group at each table has ten minutes to make a list of seven improvements the company can make in our monthly staff meetings.”

Fifth, keep PowerPoint reliance to a minimum percentage of the presentation time. Yes, PowerPoint has advantages, such as reinforcing your main points and showing colorful illustrations. Still, the audience cannot focus on the screen and relate to each other at the same time.

Sixth, remind your audience in your opening comments that you expect them to join in. “Every announcement you read about my presentation emphasized that this session will be interactive. That means you will do more than just sit and listen. There’s no way I came here with all the best ideas about our topic, so I’m eager—along with your organization’s leaders—to have your help in facing tough issues, solving problems, and charting fresh directions.”

Seventh, every time you hear a report from a table group or a recommendation from an individual, answer with appreciation and support. Remember, even a well meaning, lighthearted sarcastic remark could sound demeaning. Even though you smile and chuckle when you quip, “Now where did you get a crazy idea like that?” the audience could assume you are belittling the responder. Always react with upbeat appraisals like these: “Great idea, tell us what would be the first step we should take to make that happen.” “That’s a novel strategy, one I haven’t heard from any other group. How could we implement your suggestion within the next month or two?”

For a review of how to make audience participation attractive and meaningful: publicize your event as interactive, get acquainted with identified leaders and solicit their input, ask your host to place the attendees in small groups and give them essential writing materials, use PowerPoint sparingly, remind the group at the outset that you want their involvement, and use genuine compliments when participants get involved.

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., Communication Consultant, Speech Coach, and Keynote Speaker, “Helping Corporations and Leaders Communicate Persuasively.” Call Dr. Lampton: 678-316-4300 or visit his website:


Strategies for Getting the Audience Involved in Your Presentation

How was your first quarter? 3 questions you need to answer – Now!

Last Updated: Jan 21, 2014
The first quarter of 2012 is officially behind us. How’d your business do? Here are three questions you’ll want to ask yourself to prepare for the rest of the year.

questionWow! The first quarter of 2012 is over. It’s in the books. How did your company do? If your business is like ours, things have been moving so quickly that it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. This is a great time to step back, take a deep breath, and determine where you are going for the balance of the year. Enough time has elapsed for you to see some trends, but there is still enough year left to make meaningful changes that will impact your annual results. We suggest answering three questions:

1. How did your business do? Do you know how your business did in Q1? At this writing, we are just into April, so perhaps your books aren’t closed for the first quarter, but they should be closed by the 15th at the latest. In our experience, too many small businesses don’t close their books in a timely manner. That’s the rough equivalent of trying to call plays in a football game without knowing the score, the time left or the down and distance.

When you get your Q1 financials, will they have the information you need to know exactly where you stand? Some things you should see in your financial statements are:

2. Did you achieve your goals? Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you may wind up somewhere else.” Do you have a clear plan for where you want your business to go? If so, how did you do relative to your revenue goals, spending targets and profit plans. Too often, plans are made, but then they sit in a drawer, #NotHelpful! Get them out and see how your company is doing. If you don’t have goals, now is a great time to establish them.

Metrics without context are meaningless. If you are told that sales in the northeast region were $45,605 in the first quarter, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Without context you can’t possibly know. But, if we also told you that the revenue budget for the northeast in Q1 was $43,000, you would know that, from a revenue perspective, it was a good quarter. Goals provide necessary context for your metrics. Additional context can be provided by history and competitive comparisons.

3. What changes are you going to make? Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing and expecting different results. Don’t be insane! If you aren’t happy with your results from the first quarter, change what you are doing. Changes can be thought of in three categories:

Hopefully, your 2012 is off to a fantastic start. If changes are needed, don’t procrastinate. There is still time to positively impact your year, but time is slipping away quickly.

Doug and Polly White are Principals at Whitestone Partners; a management-consulting firm that helps small businesses build the infrastructure they need to grow profitably. They are also coauthors of the groundbreaking new book, Let Go to Grow: Why Some Businesses Thrive and Others Fail to Reach Their Potential  (Palari Publishing 2011). The book explains how entrepreneurs can avoid the most common pitfalls as their businesses grow and is available at  

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