Grabbing Your Audience

Imagine yourself back at school. Your day is made up of a grey wash of one lesson followed by another lesson, and on and on it goes, most of which you are ambivalent about. Then, one day you arrive at a different classroom. It already looks fun or interesting.

The teacher tells you to collect three random objects from around the school block. You have two minutes. First ones back get a prize. When you return, you’re told what you’re going to be doing but, the teacher wants your ideas.

As you draw your ideas, she responds and acts on them. You are contributing, and what’s more, it’s being noticed.

Or a normal class plays out in the normal way. Teacher talks. You listen. Teacher talks. You try to listen. Teacher talks. You switch off. It’s eat, sleep, yawn, repeat.

Which lesson are you going to remember? Which one is going to grab you? And which one are you going to stay engaged with?

The same is true with a virtual presentation. You need to create a welcoming space to get your audience to actively contribute in the first five minutes.

So, how can you get them to actively contribute?

· You make clear the value of your presentation.

· You make it about the audience.

· You encourage participation.

Here are some ideas for engagement.

The trick is to think playful. How playful? That will depend on your audience.

Three things exercise. Ask them to write down three things they’d like to get from your presentation on pen and paper. (You want them away from the screen, remember.) Then ask them to type the most important expectation, using the chat feature of the app you’re using. You then read these expectations out loud and promise the audience you will strive to address them during the presentation. If the audience is small enough, simply ask participants to each state what they’d like to get from the session.

Use the break-out feature. Ask participants to meet in break-out rooms and come back with an idea or solution for your presentation. Then try and incorporate the ideas or solutions into your talk.

Inspire audience participation. You’d be amazed at the stuff people are prepared to do just to get away from the screen. Ask them to run around their home and collect three random items. Make it quick, though. Giving them one minute is plenty. The trick is to try and connect it to the point of the presentation.

It doesn’t have to be big. Ask them to type in the Chat feature one word connected to their capital city, a customer profile, or their favourite cheese or inspiring song—or ideally say their word out loud.

Be bold and quick. Get them to do a dance, a shake out, sing, throw imaginary objects from screen to screen—just make sure the whole thing doesn’t last too long.

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