Practical Audience Engagement Ideas For Public Speakers

audience engagement ideas - a sea of raised hands

Hands up if you enjoy being lectured to?

I didn’t think so, so why is it that so many public speakers fall into the trap of conducting a monologue with their audience? Do they lack audience engagement ideas?

Common excuses that poor presenters use for not interacting with their audiences

  • Not enough time for two-way interaction
  • Fear of losing control
  • Worried about not being able to respond to questions appropriately
  • Scared of the audience
  • Don’t know the best ways to get audience interaction

Do you lack audience engagement ideas?

  1. Set a deliberate intention to engage your listeners
    Engagement starts with your desire to engage. Set aside your fears about grabbing and holding your audience’s attention.  They are nothing compared the damage you do to your credibility if you don’t even try.
  2. Understand the different levels of engagement
    In simple terms, engagement is when the people listening to your presentation do something as a result of your speech.   This could be an external action such as raising a hand, clapping, nodding; or an internal action such as agreeing, becoming more curious, empathizing or feeling an emotional reaction to your message and its delivery.  In this post, I’ll outline some powerful audience engagement ideas that anyone can use.

Here are a few ideas to get you started

  • Ask for an action to gain engagement and build rapport.  
    If you are speaking to a large group or if time is short, there probably won’t be a chance to get much verbal interaction. However, asking a simple question, and requesting a raised arm in response, can work very well.  The trick is to make sure you choose your question with care. Pick one that you are confident most people in the audience will respond positively to e.g. “How many of you of you are attending this course voluntarily?”
  • Share a personal story – be real
    Stories are memorable, especially ones that have a personal connection. Sharing your fear or excitement will engage your audience. It’s also a lot easier to come across as genuine if you are speaking about something you care about deeply.
  • Don’t be afraid to get your audience to move
    This works especially well if they seated for a long time. I remember once deciding to change my speech at the last moment because I felt that the audience energy was very low, probably because had been sitting  all day listening to speaker after speaker, and I could just “feel” the boredom and fatigue. So I took a chance, walked out on the stage confidently and asked everybody in the room to stand up and have a stretch! And guess what, they all did, and I had their attention for the rest of my speech slot.
  • Welcome questions from your audience
    Many presenters take questions reluctantly because they worry that an audience member will ask a question, to which they don’t know the answer. I find it useful to think of questions, not as threats, but as gifts. They are an opportunity to a) test the audience’s current reaction to the topic. b) Clear up any misunderstandings quickly. c) Give more relevant information.

In conclusion

Try out these audience engagement ideas for yourself and see what happens.  I know that you will be pleasantly surprised. P.S. I will be writing a second post with some more advanced techniques soon.  Help be by sharing your top audience engagement tips in the comment box below. I’ll use the best ones in my next post.

  1. […] are many ways that you can involve your listeners, and boost audience motivation. If you want to learn more about Audience engagement, check out this great little article This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Gavin Meikle – View the original post […]

  2. […] Too many speakers think of their presentations as one-way streets, but nobody loves to be talked at continuously.  There are many ways that you can involve your listeners,  and boost audience motivation. If you want to learn more about Audience engagement, check out this great little article […]

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