In a recent presentation, I found myself speaking from a stage that was 15 feet away from the closest audience member. Due to this unfortunate layout of the auditorium, my audience felt literally and figuratively disconnected to everything I was sharing. As the presentation started, I became very aware that I had to break down this stage-to-audience barrier and reconnect with my audience on both a personal and professional level. In that moment, I made a decision: it was time for some audience participation.
Audience involvement is a powerful tool to keep them engaged and excited about what you’re presenting. While there are some risks with getting your audience involved in your presentation, the rewards far outweigh them.
By implementing these 3 techniques, you can break down the barriers that are separating you from your audience. This allows you to connect with their heads and their hearts so that your presentation leaves them wowed and inspired.
Technique 1: Ask for a show of hands.
A simple way to get your audience involved in your next presentation is by taking a poll of the audience via asking for a show of hands. Not only does this technique involve your audience in your presentation, but it can also give you some vital insight into who your audience is. When asking for a show of hands, make sure to ask questions that will give you an idea of what your audience likes and dislikes as well as experiences they may have encountered. This information is invaluable when you are tailoring your message throughout the presentation.
Technique 2: Allow for Q&A.
Out of all the techniques for involving your audience, this may be the riskiest. When opening up the floor for your audience to ask questions, you are opening up your platform’s messaging with anyone and everyone. You may not be prepared or expect what they are going to ask, or you may find yourself with a rogue questioner as they monopolize the time. However, on the flip side, Q&A allows your audience to voice questions that may be distracting them from listening to the remainder of the presentation, so take the risk.
One tip for minimizing the risk of Q&A is to always have a staff member holding the microphone. This person should understand how to gently remove the microphone if needed and sum up the question if time is ticking away.
Technique 3: Lead a guided mental story.
The imagination is a powerful tool, and it is often overlooked by presenters. The thought that the only way to bring a story to life is through pictures and videos has forced us to shy away from engaging the imagination of our audience and drawing them in to our content. By asking your audience to close their eyes and then proceeding to tell a vivid story, you connect into a deeper level of their brain which will stick with them long after your presentation is over. In order to leverage this technique, you must ensure your stories are vivid and engaging.
Make sure to talk about what you saw, smelled, and heard, and allow ample time for them to go on the journey with you. Another tip for this technique is to take your audience on a guided journey where, rather than simply hearing your story, they can create their own story as you lead them to a certain emotions or experiences.
Drawing your audience into the presentation is a sure-fire way to break down any barrier that may exist between you and them. Whether it is a gap from the stage or an emotional disconnect, these three techniques will break down any walls that may be present and connect your audience to the heart of what you are presenting: your content.
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