Engaging Your Audience
Engaging your audience is a crucial part of public speaking, as it helps you to connect with your listeners and keep them interested in your message. In this chapter, we’ll discuss several strategies that can help you engage your audience and keep them interested in your presentation.
Strategies for connecting with your audience
1. Start with a powerful opening.
The first few seconds of your presentation are critical in capturing your audience’s attention. You can begin with a quotation, an anecdote, or a surprising statistic that can pique your audience’s interest.
2. Know your audience.
Understand your audience’s needs, interests, and concerns. This will enable you to tailor your message to their needs and interests, and engage them more effectively.
3. Share a personal experience.
Sharing a personal experience with your audience is a great way to connect with them on a personal level. Personal stories can help to build rapport, and make your message more relatable.
4. Relate to a recent event.
Relating your topic to a recent event or news story can make your presentation more timely and relevant. This can also help to establish your credibility and expertise on the subject.
5. Piggyback on a previous speaker’s remark or theme.
If your presentation follows another speaker, you can use their remarks or theme to build on your presentation. This can help to keep the audience engaged and build a connection between the two speakers.
6. Point out something important about the audience or the current setting.
Acknowledging something important about the audience or the current setting can help to establish a connection with your listeners. This can include things like thanking them for attending, recognizing a special occasion or event, or acknowledging their expertise.
7. Show a compelling visual image.
Visuals can be a powerful way to engage your audience and make your message more memorable. This can include things like images, videos, or infographics that support your message and help to illustrate your points.
8. Ask a provocative question.
Asking a provocative question can pique your audience’s interest and get them thinking about your topic. This can help to establish your credibility and expertise, and build a connection with your listeners.
9. State a fact that is troubling, amusing, or remarkable.
Stating a fact that is troubling, amusing, or remarkable can be an effective way to capture your audience’s attention and make your message more memorable. This can help to establish your credibility and expertise, and build a connection with your listeners.
10. Spell out what’s at stake for your listeners.
Explaining what’s at stake for your listeners can help to establish the relevance and importance of your message. This can include things like the consequences of inaction, or the benefits of taking a particular course of action.
11. Offer a humorous observation or anecdote.
Humor can be a powerful tool for engaging your audience and making your message more memorable. Offering a humorous observation or anecdote can help to build rapport and make your message more relatable.
Communication is the mainstay of any presentation.
12. Explain your own interest in the topic.
Explaining your own interest in the topic can help to establish your credibility and expertise, and build a connection with your listeners. This can include things like personal experience, or a professional interest in the topic.
13. Tell listeners what the topic has to do with them.
Telling your audience what the topic has to do with them can help to establish the relevance and importance of your message. This can include things like the benefits of taking a particular course of action, or the consequences of inaction. By explaining what’s at stake for your listeners, you can help to engage them and make your point.
14. Challenge them with a puzzle.
A puzzle or brain teaser can pique the audience’s interest and get them thinking. It can also create a sense of competition among them, which can be used to keep them engaged throughout the speech. This strategy is particularly useful when the topic is complex or technical in nature, and the audience may be more receptive to learning when they feel like they are part of a fun challenge.
15. Share someone’s testimony.
Sharing a personal story or someone’s testimony can be a powerful tool for creating an emotional connection with the audience. It can also help to add credibility to your speech by showing how the topic has impacted real people’s lives. By telling a story that is relatable, the audience is more likely to be invested in the topic and will be more receptive to your message.
16. Use an acrostic.
An acrostic is a mnemonic device that uses the first letter of each word in a phrase or sentence to help remember the main points. This strategy can be used to help the audience remember the key points of the speech and to reinforce the message throughout the presentation. An effective acrostic is easy to remember, but also meaningful and relevant to the topic being discussed.
Listening to your audience is just as important as speaking to them. By listening to the audience’s questions and feedback, you can tailor your message to better fit their needs and interests. This can also help to build rapport with the audience and make them more engaged in the topic. Paying attention to the audience can help you to deliver a more effective speech.
18. Show a short video.
A video can be a powerful way to engage the audience and communicate the message effectively. Videos can help to illustrate complex topics, add emotional depth to a story, or simply provide a change of pace to the speech. A short, relevant video can be used to grab the audience’s attention and provide a visual representation of the topic being discussed.
19. Engaging your audience with a Quiz.
A quiz can be an interactive way to engage the audience and reinforce the key points of the speech. The quiz can be conducted in real-time, using a show of hands or an online poll. Quizzes can be used to get the audience involved and to reinforce the key messages of the speech.
20. Conduct a poll.
A poll can be a useful way to get the audience engaged and to gain insight into their opinions and perspectives. The poll can be conducted online or in real-time, using a show of hands. Polls can be used to provide feedback on the speech, to gauge the audience’s understanding of the topic, or to create a sense of community among the audience.
21. Ask a question.
Asking a question can be an effective way to engage the audience and to get them thinking about the topic being discussed. The question should be relevant and thought-provoking, and it should be designed to get the audience invested in the topic. A good question can help to create a sense of curiosity and can encourage the audience to learn more.
22. Use a game-inspired tactic.
A game-inspired tactic can be a fun and engaging way to get the audience invested in the topic. This can include using a quiz, a game show-style format, or other interactive activities that involve the audience. This approach can be particularly effective when the topic is complex or technical, and the audience may be more receptive to learning when it feels like they are part of a fun challenge.
Exercise: Connect with Your Audience
To practice using different strategies for connecting with an audience and engaging them during a presentation.
- Choose a topic that you would like to present on. It can be related to your work, hobbies, interests, or anything else that you feel passionate about.
- Select one or more strategies from the list of 22 presented in Chapter 4 of the Public Speaking Pro course.
- Develop a short presentation using your selected strategy/ies to connect with your audience.
- Practice your presentation and refine it until you feel confident and comfortable with it.
- Present your topic and strategy/ies to a small group of friends, family members, or colleagues, and ask for their feedback.
- Reflect on what worked well and what could be improved. Consider how you could incorporate other strategies from the list to further engage your audience in future presentations.
- Repeat the exercise with a different strategy or combination of strategies until you have practiced using several of the techniques presented in Chapter 4.
- Lucas, S. E. (2020). The art of public speaking (14th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.
- Garmston, R. J., & Wellman, B. M. (2013). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Rowman & Littlefield.