10 Proven Ways to Engage the Audience and Boost Your Presentation Skills for Career Growth
As a Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Trainer in Singapore, this is one of the top questions my participants ask for their career growth: “How do I engage the audience better and make my presentations more interesting?”
We all know that captivating and engaging the audience is a critical requirement for any presentation. The better we are at getting their attention and sustaining their interest, the higher our chances of having a successful presentation.
Hence, the ability to deliver an interesting presentation and engage the audience skillfully is a necessity, not a choice.
In this article, I’ll share 10 proven ways guaranteed to make your presentation more interesting so you can better captivate and engage your audience.
To help you remember these 10 different tips, I’ve listed them to be in the form of an acronym C.A.P.T.I.V.A.T.E.S.
Engage the Audience Method #1: COMMENCEMENT
In today’s fast-paced world where immediate-gratification is expected, the opening (commencement) of your presentation is crucial.
Start shakily and you risk leaving a negative impression and losing audience’s attention. Start strongly and you immediately create the connection with them.
Here are some ideas to start your presentation solidly and engage the audience from the get-go:
Ask an intriguing question to get the audience thinking:
- “What if we could ….?”
- “When was the last time you …?”
- “Why do you think … happened?”
Use a powerful quote for a boost of credibility and appeal:
- Anthony Robbins once said, “Every problem is a gift. Without problems, we would not grow.”
- There’s a phrase by Richard Branson that I really like. He said, “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.”
- The late Steve Jobs used to share great wisdom through his quotes and phrases. One of my favourites is: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Tell a short anecdote or story:
- “Last week I met someone that I hadn’t met in a long time…”
- “There’s a very successful banker who started working in a bank at the age of 40….”
Share a surprising fact or figure:
- 90% of all companies in the world are small businesses
- According to the data by The World Bank in 2019, Singapore is the easiest place to do business in the world, second only to New Zealand.
Engage the Audience Method #2: APPLICABILITY
Audience members are more interested in our presentation or speech when they perceive that the content is applicable to their wants and needs. Only after they are interested would they be engaged.
This is why we need to be crystal clear with what the audience is looking for. We would then need to communicate our presentation’s takeaways (that can address their concerns) early and quickly.
We can do this by briefly going through the agenda and touching on some of the problems as well as the potential solutions that will be covered in the presentation.
Keep in mind that we need to be specific (rather than generic) and concise as we get the audience members to realize the relevance and applicability of our presentation.
Engage the Audience Method #3: PHYSICALITY
Consciously or unconsciously, we are always transmitting information to our audience through our non-verbal communication: body language. We can engage the audience more effectively when our body language is accurate, expressive, and purposeful.
We need to ensure:
- Eye contact is sustained and well distributed
- Facial expressions are congruent with the topic or message on hand
- Hand gestures are complete and expressive
- Posture is straight, strong and balanced.
- Movement is clear and definite
Engage the Audience Method #4: TONE
When we speak in a monotonous tone of voice, audience will lose interest and get disengaged very quickly.
Imagine a song that consists of only 1 chord or even 1 note, it wouldn’t be very nice to listen to, would it?
The same goes for our tone of voice, as well as volume, emphasis, pacing, and pausing. We need to be able to vary and adjust them based on the topic or message that we are trying to convey.
Vocal variety gives more dimension to our presentation, making it more impactful and enjoyable, hence enabling us to engage the audience.
Read more on how to improve your speaking voice and how to project your voice and speak louder.
Engage the Audience Method #5: INTERACTION
Interacting with the audience makes them feel included in the presentation and makes you, the presenter, appear more thoughtful and confident. As we involve the audience in our presentation, we create a collaborative environment that encourages exchange of ideas, which in turn builds deeper connections and engagement.
One of the simplest ways to engage the audience through audience interaction and involvement is to ask them questions. We can then use their answer and relate it to our content or topic.
Another method is to use bits of information that we know about the audience and try to leverage those as examples.
Let’s say one of our audience, Jamie, is in the financial industry. When we are talking about certain trends or changes in the financial industry, due to say cryptocurrency, we can try to link how these changes might impact Jamie and the financial industry in the long run.
Engage the Audience Method #6: Visuals
Visual aids using software such PowerPoint and Keynote slides can be very impactful and memorable.
Through such software we can display images, graphics, charts, diagrams, and even videos to get audience interested and invested in our presentation. These components give our presentation more depths and dimensions as compared to mere verbal words from our mouth.
Despite the obvious benefits of visual aids, we need to keep in mind to not overload and overwhelm the audience with texts and materials on each slide. Too much information will result in too little retention.
Always ensure that your presentation slides are clean, clear, concise, contrastive, consistent, coordinated, and of course, captivating.
Engage the Audience Method #7: Arrangement
A presentation that’s organized and well-arranged allows the audience to follow along, understand better, and stay engaged.
Ensure that your presentation has clear segments of at least an introduction, body and a conclusion.
As you navigate between the segments or points within each segment, try to use transitions and signposts. Signposts and transitions help audience members to be aware of where they are at the presentation and to follow the progression smoothly.
Examples of verbal signposts:
- “Now that we’re done with A, let’s move on to B.”
- You might be wondering “Why should I bother about this?”. Let me tell you why …..
Examples of transition words:
- “In addition, firstly, similarly, for example, on the other hand, most importantly, that’s why, even though, etc.“
Transitions and Signposts also help us to rely less on unhelpful filler words such as “arh, erh, erm, you know, right, etc”
Engage the Audience Method #8: TUNING
As we deliver our presentation or speech, we need to pay attention to our audience’s verbal and non-verbal cues to assess their level of interest and engagement.
When we see certain possible signs of disinterest, confusion, or even boredom, we might need to do some tuning to our presentation. These signs could be in the form of: yawning, fidgeting, crossing the arms, looking away from us or at the phone, or other ‘closed’ or ‘negative’ gestures.
Voice wise, we could try to adjust our pace, tone, or even volume.
For our body language, we could try to build better rapport through stronger eye contact, a smile, more lively hand gestures, or even moving closer to the audience.
As for the content, we could try to bring in some a real-life example, an anecdote or even a story.
To engage the audience and sustain it, we need to maintain flexibility. We should be ready to adapt and adjust based on the audience’s reaction during the presentation.
Engage the Audience Method #9: EMOTIONS
Maya Angelou’s quote says it all
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you make them feel.”
We need to be aware and intentional in terms of the emotions that we try to convey through our presentation. The moment we’re able to influence how the audience should feel towards our content, our presentation would be that much more engaging and successful.
“Am I trying to make them excited through this presentation? Am I trying to surprise them with my findings? Am I delivering hope? Am I reminding them of the seriousness and severity of a potential mistake? Am I trying to get them to laugh and relax? or Am I supposed to inspire and motivate?”
Engage the Audience Method #10: STORYTELLING
We’re saving the best for last.
The sure-fire way to engage the audience, any audience, in any context, is through storytelling. That’s it.
Stories are extremely powerful. Stories get people interested. They get people to sit up and pay attention. They create engagement with the audience.
From time immemorial, since long before the advent of any media or communication tools, human beings have always passed information through stories. Since the time of our ancestors till today, stories have been the number one medium for conveying information, whether factual or fictional.
Essentially, our brains are wired to listen to stories and tell them. The characters, the plot, the journey, the challenges, the twists, the competition, the end result, and more. These are components of life, of every single human being’s life.
Stories bundle multiple pieces of information in a very relatable and appealing manner. That is why EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this planet, loves stories.
We just have to ensure the stories and anecdotes we use in our presentation are relevant, appropriate and delivered in a structure that’s relatable to everyone.
To recap, we have covered a total of 10 ways to engage the audience through the acronym CAPTIVATES.
Commencement. Applicability. Physicality. Tone. Interaction. Visual. Arrangement. Tuning. Emotions. Storytelling.
By implementing some or all of the above methods and strategies, you can significantly improve audience engagement in your presentations.
The better you are at the various methods of engagement, the more tools you have at your disposal to engage your audience.
So how do you get better at the strategies discussed above?
Rehearse. Refine. Repeat.
As a Presentation Skills & Public Speaking institution in Singapore, we offer 2-day workshops and 8-session courses for you to improve your ability the captivate and engage the audience through delivering impactful presentations.
In our workshops and courses, we will go through each of the above strategies in greater detail and depth. Participants will be given stage time for practice and there will also be evaluations after each practice session.
Keep practising and keep shining!