How to Engage Your Audience Offline and Online

February 26, 2014

A question I often get asked is how one can involve his or her audience more when giving a presentation. Creating more exercises/workshops and opening yourself up to Q&A more frequently are options, but there are a few clever tactics that can be utilized to make your presentations even more engaging -- both online and offline.

Connect Early

NBC’s Emmy Award-winning PSAs are famous for the line, “The More You Know.” This is more true today than ever before with presentations. We live in a world saturated with information and social media, so there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t know more about your audience before giving or sharing your presentation. Did you visit the appropriate web sites that relate to your audience? Did you view the key decision makers' LinkedIn profiles before launching your webinar or stepping on stage? If not, do it. The more you know, the more you can connect early with your audience, whether it be in a conference room, webinar chat room or via comments online. And the more you can tailor your message to them, the more likely they'll be engaged and attentive.

Embrace the Right Mindset

Remember that your presentation is a conversation between you and the audience. The person whom I would grab coffee with on a Saturday morning is the person who needs to be on stage giving the presentation. In other words, you need to be yourself when presenting. Think of how engaged you and your friend are during that Saturday coffee chat. You should ultimately capture your audience's attention at that same level.

Once you start to drift from this, you will be headed down a path where your audience may feel like you are talking down to them, or like you are not taking their needs into consideration. Truly engaged folks are those who respect you.

Change Your Language

Let’s imagine a traditional agenda slide. What does it look like? It probably has a big header called “Agenda” with a few bullets to support and highlight the upcoming main points. Now, let’s think differently. What if that slide was replaced with a header that simply stated, “Where Do We Go from Here” or “Why Your Ideas Matter”? The latter puts the emphasis back on the audience. Use more  encompassing language that brings you and the audience together.

Involving your audience can easily be done. It just involves a little pre-planning and clever wording with your slides. Good luck out there!

READ MORE: How to Get More Social With Your Next Presentation

About the Author

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.

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