A lot of presenters worry about involving their audience.  They think it will derail them and make them ‘lose the plot’.  So here’s how you can have a relationship with everyone in your audience and keep them all satisfied.

There are 3 levels of proactive audience involvement (i.e. where you make the first move) – Passive, Participative & Pointed.

1. Passive audience involvement

Where you involve the audience but they don’t respond.  E.g.:

  • Pre-empting questions or concerns e.g. ‘Looking at the project rollout, some of you might be worried about the tight deadlines.  I’d like to chat about that now.’
  • Using rhetorical questions e.g. ‘So when exactly are we going to implement the restructure? Well …’
  • Referring to the audience e.g. ‘I was chatting to John from IT and he’s also worried about the SPAM we’re receiving.’
  • Getting the audience to imagine a situation e.g. ‘Imagine life if you could finish work by 5.00pm 3 times a week.  Think about all the extra exercise, family, social, cooking, hobby time you would have. That’s what I’m going to talk about today – work/life balance.’
  • Acknowledging success or challenges e.g. ‘I’d like to congratulate the marketing team on a really successful campaign last quarter.’

The great thing about Passive audience involvement is that it’s a low-risk way of having a relationship with everyone in your audience, no matter how many people there are!

2.  Participative audience involvement

Asking a question of the audience and they respond.  E.g.:

Closed questions e.g. ‘Hands up who would like to win the lottery?’

Open questions e.g. ‘What other ideas can you think of that would improve our work/life balance?’

Checking-in e.g. ‘Does anyone have any questions about the restructure before we move on?’

Closed questions are a terrific way to warm your audience up, especially if they don’t know each other.  Once they feel comfortable, you can introduce open questions.

NOTE:  I always recommend you let your audience know in your housekeeping that you’ll be asking questions as this will help them feel prepared to contribute.

3.  Pointed audience involvement

Same as Participative but it’s to one member of the audience at a time.  Pointed audience involvement can be like being asked for a date by someone when you’re with a crowd of your mates.  Embarrasing! So to prevent this reaction try our 2 stage comfort technique:

Stage i)  Prepare the audience for the question e.g. ‘Sarah I’d like to get your input if that’s ok.’

Stage ii) Then provide comfort that you won’t judge them or their input e.g. ‘You’re someone that has a balanced life.’  Then the question ‘So what do you do to ensure work doesn’t take over?’

So get polygamous and build relationships with your audience because the more involved they are, the more engaging, enjoyable and memorable you and your presentations with be.

But what about when people ask us questions?  In others words, reactive audience involvement.  See our blog ‘Put yourself in the firing line’.

p.s. remember it’s your personality that powers your presentation performance.