26 Ways to Engage Your Audience

Author: Claude Desroches
Successful speakers are successful because they are masters at quickly and effectively connecting with their audiences. Connecting with your audience is all about establishing a relationship with them. I have compiled an alphabet soup of different ways you can use to engage your audience and help you create a strong relationship from the stage.

Engage your audience

a) Start with a provocative/challenging statement.

b) If the audience energy level is low, bring yours up.

c) Tell your audience what they will walk away with: new insight, new information, new commitments, new ideas. Be as specific as possible.

d) If you ask questions, give your audience time to think and to respond.

e) Find a way to make your presentation fun by adding exercises when appropriate.

f) Tell your audience why something (which is not always obvious) is important. Some need reminders and clues.

g) When speaking, be inclusive with your words, use “We” more than you use “I”.

h) Tell personal stories that are relevant to your subject matter which help your audience to better understand and remember your message. People forget facts and information but they remember stories for years to come!

i) Engage your audience by leaving them with “Food for thought” and compelling reasons to apply what they’ve learned. Give them a call to action.

j) Don’t be afraid to repeat important things.

k) Do something unexpected, different than the usual “same old, same old” presentations everyone hates, expects, and has heard hundreds of times.

l) Your audience is a good mirror of how you are performing. If you are not engaged, why would you expect them to engage?

m) Ask someone to volunteer and have them come to the front for a demonstration. Shake things up and let them know by your tone, actions, demeanor, that nodding off or deferring to their smartphones or laptops or favourite distractions might cause them to miss out on something REALLY important, that is (You should have been there type of moments).

n) Add a bit of humour and don’t be afraid to be a bit self-deprecating. It can be disarming as well as charming.

o) Try not to take yourself too seriously.

p) Tell your audience why you are so passionate about the topic you are speaking about. How you got into it? Who was involved? Make a story out of it.

q) Before your presentation, talk to audience members and ask them about what is important to them (with respect to your topic).

r) Less is more. Just because you know something does not mean that you need to tell them.

s) Use the right level of vocabulary. Simplicity trumps complexity in most cases unless you have an expert audience.

t) Your audience won’t care about what you know, until they know you care about them.

u) Speak clearly, pronunciate, enunciate, change up your speaking tempo and avoid death through monotony.

v) Honesty, integrity, and authenticity are very endearing to most audiences. Be consistent.

w) Make things visual, either with images or appropriate anecdotes and use descriptive language to help people see what you are talking about when there are no images.

x) Engage your audience by show them a short video which fits well with your presentation (time permitting). The video needs to be compelling and might help to initiate a dialogue.

y) Listen closely to what your audience is saying and doing. These are valuable clues telling you if your audience is engaged or not. If many audience members are looking down or busy with their smartphones checking email, surfing the net or catching up with their Facebook posts, guess what? They are not engaged. A good sign is if all eyes are glued on you while you speak. You have their undivided attention. Well done. If hands are going up and audience members are wanting to share insights or even ask questions, they are engaged. Use these hints to gauge your audience’s level of engagement. Their actions tell you in no uncertain terms whether you are engaging them or not.

z) Use edification (by talking about someone other than yourself), share another person’s success story. You don’t always need to be the hero of every story.

I am certain you can find numerous other ways to engage an audience. I encourage and invite you to spend some time thinking about how you might engage your audience in new and different ways. Feel free to share this with the community and other speakers.

For more speaking advice, check out our short videos!