The 3 things you need to kickstart audience engagement


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The 3 things you need to kickstart audience engagement

Let me ask you, how many speakers have you listened to in the last five to ten years? 

Lots right?

Now, here’s the real question, can you actually remember their key messages or even their names?

I have had thousands of people come and work with me in my Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass, and by way of introduction, they often say something like, “I did one of these presentation courses a few years ago now. It was with a woman, she had brown hair, can’t remember much else about it.”  

Oh, dear. I just hope people don’t say the same thing about me! 

Let’s face it, those presenters who are memorable make the biggest impact and difference.

Whether you are speaking in business as a paid speaker or in a more informal setting at a team meeting, it’s always vitally important to use the opportunity to connect emotionally with your audience. 

Your aim, whenever you speak, should always be to make a significant difference and be remembered

It’s a business presenter’s responsibility to use people’s time wisely to help them achieve something during the meeting and to be remembered for all the right reasons. 

Here’s how you can emotionally connect with your audience during a presentation:

1. Make a great first impression. 

Did you know that it only takes nine seconds to form a first impression? Yes, only nine seconds! The first impression is based on how you look, dress and act.

So this means that people take a quick look at you and then they make up their minds about what they think of you on the spot.

Your audience will then use the next twenty-five seconds to take note of three particular things: how direct and connected is your eye contact, how deep and resonant is your voice, and how comfortable you appear in your skin. 

So a good way to improve the first impression is to work on your eye contact. Really look at people when you speak to them, and also when they speak with you. Work on your voice, and in particular, practice projecting your breath from your diaphragm rather than from your throat, to lower the sound of your voice. And finally, practice how you stand and gesture in front of a mirror so you can see how confident (or not) you look.

2. Grab your audience’s attention. 

It’s critical that you use your opening to reflect that you understand the audience’s issues or pain. There are five ingredients in a winning opening:

  • Build rapport. This is where you use inclusive statements to reflect that you understand where your audience is coming from. For example, “I know that we have been disappointed with xyz recently.” This step may include an artful story or some disarming humor that captivates your audience from the start.

  • Assert your perspective. This is where you state your key message, which may be contentious. For example, “Today we need to resolve x.”

  • Motivate your audience to pay attention. There’s a cool technique where you explain to your audience what they will reduce, maintain, and improve by listening to you today. For example, “Today’s meeting is where we will work to reduce the chance of this happening again, maintain our morale and improve next quarter’s results.”

  • Proactively manage audience objections. If you don’t deal with any stated or unstated objections in your meeting, your audience will be distracted and may miss your key points. Be sure to deal with your audience’s objections at this stage of your opening so everyone can move on and listen to what you are actually saying.

  • Control and relax your audience. This is where you manage your housekeeping. For example, what is the scope of the meeting? What are the roles of the people in attendance? What are the rules of engagement and the manners you expect people to demonstrate? Be sure to explain all this clearly and respectfully so you control and relax your audience members.

3. Be yourself.

Most people have a fabulous bullsh*t detector that is miraculously embedded in their brains!  

If you are not authentic, or if you are over- or under-scripted, and if you fake your emotions, vocal range, and gestures, the audience gets the sense you are acting and will write you off in no time. 

Wrapping it up

It’s not really rocket science, is it?  The best speakers have worked on all these elements in their presentations and are reaping the benefits. Good luck with your presentation journey, and let me know how I might help you further. Happy presenting! 

About the author

Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation and persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio, and online media. Sign up for Michelle's FREE How to Present magazine TODAY.

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