When it comes to presentations, we’ve entered the age of audience expectations. At conferences and summits, time-short and busy attendees anticipate and want more than stale, run-of-the-mill, 45-minute, lecture-style presentations. They want to be engaged.
If you are searching for new ways to increase audience participation and delight your listeners in our technology-saturated 21st century, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Forego the cheesy ice breaker
Everyone knows you’re not supposed to simply jump into the very depth of your message at the start of a presentation. Unfortunately, many have come to rely on generic and corny icebreakers to try engaging listeners. An article on Forbes.com by contributor Kristi Hedges gives a better idea: “Consider what would be a natural interactive accompaniment to the presentation.” Most people have an innate love for games, so your opening technique could include a game design, such as a quiz where the audience competes at their tables, or asking them to guess the results of some research you want to share. Other strategies could be digitally polling your audience (and then instantly displaying the results in your presentation or on a website); asking your audience questions; telling a story; or conducting an interactive demo for a product. Most importantly, Hedges writes, “consider what would make your particular audience members feel part of the discussion from the outset.”
2. Set up the room differently
Citing Kristin Arnold’s book “Boring to Bravo,” blogger Olivia Mitchell writes how the right physical layout for a meeting room can set the tone for audience participation. If your meeting room looks too dry and conventional, change it up. Arnold suggests setting up the room so people can easily connect with you and one other, which means leaving access lanes. You also can try having just enough seats for your expected attendees, so they don’t all sit in the back rows. Other ideas from Arnold include taping welcome signs on the door; putting up posters or other visual aids; and playing music or a slideshow as people enter the room.
3. Take a visual approach
The importance of properly using some sort of visual aid – whether it be a video, diagram, photograph, infographic or map – into your presentation can’t be understated. In a blog post for Lifehacker Australia, Kris Flegg references research that shows about 65 percent of people are visual learners. People generally remember a higher percentage of information if it’s communicated to them visually. That being said, don’t rely on clip art or tacky props, and don’t turn the visual aids into your entire presentation. They should work in tandem to bring the information you’re sharing to life, reinforce your message and allow you to give a more confident, natural delivery, Flegg writes. If you want to incorporate digital visual aids, though, you need the right tools. This article for The Bizzabo Blog covers 30 conference presentation tools to use, instead of relying only on PowerPoint. Many of these apps and presentation builders have state-of-the-art visual capabilities and features; allow for cross-device collaborations; and provide various share options.
4. Encourage live-Tweeting or live-blogging
It used to be a warning sign if your audience members started turning to their phones or laptops during you presentation. Now, however, it’s encouraged, at least if they’re live-blogging or Tweeting. These actions help people pay attention and retain, share and engage with content, according to Forbes.com. It’s important you create a hashtag for your presentation, disseminate it before you start and then assign someone to monitor it while you’re busy. According to a research survey by HubSpot, 52 percent of responders said they had at one time seen a live Tweet about a presentation and joined in because of it, which means live-Tweeting is effective as an audience-builder. When asked what made them want to live-Tweet, some of survey responders’ top answers were categorized as news, novelty, relevance and the presenter. That means presenters should try saying something their audience likely hasn’t heard before; keeping the focus homed in on the topic listeners came to learn about; including breaking news or data in the presentation; and letting their personality and passion shine through. An example of a company that allows you to be engaged in presentations is Slido; which makes audience interation easy. Slido allows your audience to decide which questions they would most like to discuss, allows attendees to ask questions anonymously, and you can turn on moderation and easily filter any inappropriate questions before they go live.
Whether you’ve given dozens of presentations at various conferences and summits or you’re just starting out, it’s important to keep in mind that audience participation and engagement is critical to communicating and reinforcing your message. In addition to the methods above, asking questions throughout a presentation, pulling up audience members as volunteers or conducting video interviews with experts in fields related to your topic are ways to reignite your listeners and help them retain the information.