Attracting the audience’s attention can be tricky, especially if you’re a first-time presenter. Not knowing the right way to engage listeners and pique their attention due to a lack of experience can bore the crowd and make them anxious. But play the right cards and you’ll find that there are a number of ways to keep people engaged. One of the easiest is to interact with your audience.
We don’t just mean getting to know your listeners before the presentation, although that can give you an idea of how to speak and act on stage as well.
Take note of the little things you do during your pitch. Notice that your body language and your choice of words can make a big difference in how people see you. Displaying confidence in your actions can help establish your credibility and make you appear more trustworthy.
Here are three things to watch out for to enhance audience engagement:
1. Stage Presence
People want to see confidence and sincerity in a speaker, so don’t stand in one spot on the stage. Your movements dictate how the audience responds to you. Claiming the space around you by pacing the stage makes you appear more at ease with your environment since you’re not afraid to go near the audience and engage them with your presence.
For presentations or speeches that require a passionate or emotional delivery – for instance, a declamation or a TED talk – you’re encouraged to roam freely on stage. According to presentation expert Olivia Mitchell, doing so can establish a more intimate connection between you and your audience, as discussed in her Speaking About Presenting article. The proximity of your physical presence helps them flesh out a more human sense of the presenter rather than a detached speaker relating distant points.
Discern when it’s appropriate to act lively on stage, like when you’re announcing a new product. Familiarize yourself with your presentation, from your content, to the visuals on your deck. This lets you know when it would be appropriate to take control of the stage, and when to focus on explaining your points.
It’s also important to know the venue and equipment you’ll be using beforehand to figure out whether it’s possible to move around the space, or whether it would be best to use minimal gestures. For instance, formal settings like boardroom meetings may require less expressive movements.
Use your stage presence and explore it to your advantage.
2. Image Projection
How you project yourself through your actions affects how people perceive you. It’s important to make a good first impression, and maintain this appearance throughout your presentation. This determines whether the audience will buy into what you’re saying or not.
In her famous TED Talk, which has been featured across various sites and journals, including an article on the New York Times by David Hochman, social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses the advantages of power posing. Cuddy asked a few Zappos employees in one of her studies to change their pose by “making themselves big” for a few minutes.
In the experiment, the perceived confidence resulted in increased confidence among the employees. Opening yourself up by standing with your shoulders back and your arms away from your chest shows that you’re not nervous or afraid.
Conversely, folding your entire body by hunching forward makes you seem unconfident, making listeners less likely to invest their time in you. Other ways of non-verbally projecting confidence include establishing eye contact with the audience, suiting your facial expressions to the occasion needed, and enacting hand gestures that can strengthen your points.
Doing these will foster deeper connections with the audience by making your physical presence felt throughout your pitch, ensuring a thorough command of people’s attention.
3. Relevant Questions
Even the best speeches have had a few people dozing off in them. When you find your own listeners falling asleep or getting distracted, call back their attention by asking them relevant questions.
For example, if you’re presenting in front of potential clients, ask them about their experiences with other products in the market, and respond by presenting your own alternative.
This method avoids singling out anyone or embarrassing them to call their attention. It allows you to not only capture people’s attention, but also foster more concrete connections by showing you care about what they think. More often than not, the audience is attuned to how a pitch will benefit them, rather than how it will benefit the presenter. Make sure to establish that you’re focused on the audience’s wellbeing rather than your personal profit.
Prompt encouraging questions in your presentation. Something like, “What did you think of this part of the presentation?” can bring them into the dialogue between the presenter and audience. At the same time, when it’s their turn to do the asking, validate all types of questions given to you, and don’t divulge all your information during your actual presentation.
Get the audience thinking, but make sure that all your statements enhance your point, not detract people from it. With this, you hit two birds with one stone: you regain audience attention, and help your main presentation progress.
Audience engagement is one of the trickiest, but also most necessary aspects of a presentation. You won’t be able to convince anyone without making them feel like you’re worth listening to.
Make use of your given space by freely moving on it, and project a confident image through your posture to boost the audience’s interest in what you have to say. But don’t overdo the movement. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings, audience type, and equipment to make sure you don’t give off the wrong message. Keep your gestures appropriate within the type of presentation you’re giving.
You can also try asking the right questions. This is always helpful in winning back any lost attention and letting people participate in your pitch’s progress. Remember that the audience is more interested in how your presentation will benefit them, so keep your pitch geared towards participative and engaging interactions with people.
Move your listeners for a winning speech. But it won’t be complete without a perfect slide deck to match. Contact our SlideGenius experts today for your presentation need and get a free quote!
“8 Tips for Encouraging Questions in Your Presentation.” Speaking about Presenting. Accessed December 8, 2015. www.speakingaboutpresenting.com/audience/presentation-question-time
Hochman, David. “Amy Cuddy Takes a Stand.” The New York Times. September 20, 2014. Accessed December 8, 2015. www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/fashion/amy-cuddy-takes-a-stand-TED-talk.html?_r=2
Mitchell, Olivia. “9 Ways to Use Space in Your Presentation.” Speaking about Presenting. Accessed December 8, 2015. www.speakingaboutpresenting.com/delivery/9-ways-space-presentation
Featured Image: “Etech05: Audience” by James Duncan Davidson on flickr.com