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Seventeen Ways to Keep Your Audience Engaged!

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Seventeen Ways To Keep Your Audience Engaged!

Those seated in your audience have a rather short attention span. Keeping them listening and absorbing your presentation is a worthy goal. They’ll never GET IT! if you don’t keep them engaged.

There is a reason TED Talks are eighteen minutes. TED curator Chris Anderson explains the organization’s thinking this way: It (eighteen minutes) is long enough to be serious, and short enough to hold people’s attention.

Your talk is probably longer than eighteen minutes, and keeping the audience mentally involved in your presentation can be challenging.

Here are Seventeen Ways to Accomplish This:

  1. Start with the Venue

  2. Temperature.

  3. If the room is too warm, some people might nod off. (Snoring and falling off chairs is not a good thing!)

  4. A bit cooler is better than too warm.

  5. Lighting.

  6. Since non-verbal communication trumps verbal, people must be able to see you.

  7. I once attended a large “Economic Summit” sponsored by a bank where speakers stood in one of the darkest areas of the room.

  8. Lectern and Speaker Location.

  9. Having an elevated stage is essential in large rooms.If they can’t see you, you soon lose them.

  10. Screen Location (If using slides).

  11. Because we read left to right, the speaker should be positioned to the left of the screen, as the audience faces it.

  12. The same “Economic Summit” I attended had the speaker centered between two huge screens, each about fifteen feet from the presenter.

  13. This made it difficult to see the speaker and the screen at the same time. Since the speaker was not lighted well, the attention of attendees often went to the light of the screen.

  14. Diversions and Interruptions.

  15. Some you can mange, such as banning servers from clearing tables during your talk.

  16. There are others you can’t control, thunder, sirens, and other noises outside the venue.

  17. Sight and Sound.

  18. Arrive early and check the view.

  19. Check the view to you’ll be standing and to the screen from various audience seats and adjust, if necessary, so everyone has an unobstructed view.

  20. If they can’t see you, they won’t get the full value of the presentation and minds are more likely to wander.

  21. Check the sound system.

  22. I once spoke to a local chamber where the microphone generated erratic static. I know everyone didn’t hear my message.

  23. If your presentation has audio, such as sound effects, be certain there are external speakers, and they work!

  24. I’ve made the mistake of forgetting this and having a room full of people cupping their ears try to listen to audio from my laptop’s mini-speakers.

  25. Lesson learned: I now bring my own external speakers, wired and bluetooth!

  26. Projector.

  27. If you’re using slides it is mandatory to arrive early to test everything about this element of your presentation.

  28. I suggest bringing your own laptop, although sometimes it’s not feasible.

  29.  Bring a variety of projector to laptop adapters: VGA, HDMI, and DVI.

  30. Bring your own remote!

  31. Mine does things the standard ones usually don’t do; like making the screen go blank and having a built-in infrared pointer.

  32. Be certain to have your presentation, whether planning to use your laptop, or another, backed up on a thumb drive and in the cloud.

  33. Backup not only in the program it was developed in, PowerPoint or Keynote, but in PDF format, also.

  34. I’m an apple man using Keynote software, so I always back up in PowerPoint, too.Important:

  35. PowerPoint and Keynote export to each other’s formats, but need tweaking, sometimes a lot of tweaking, to use effectively.

  36. Audio and video do not export to PDFs so that exportation format will have to be edited with this in mind.

  37. Also have a hard copy of the presentation. Using images rather than text will make it easier to deliver if things go south.

  38. Meet and Greet.

  39. When people arrive; introduce yourself, shake their hands, look them in the eye, and thank them for attending.

  40. Having you, the speaker, doing this often overlooked activity, increases the odds they’ll pay attention from the get-go.

  41. You might ask some folks, “What do you hope to take away from my talk?”

  42. Insisting on Name Tags for everyone makes the “Meet and Greet” easier.

  43. Addressing someone by name when extending your hand is powerful!

  44. Getting Started.

  45. Introduction.

  46. It is your responsibility to write your Introduction, and have it in the hand’s of the emcee before the event.

  47. Bring an extra copy in case they forget it or another individual has been assigned the task.

  48. The Introduction is not your bio.

  49. No one cares where you went to school, how many pets you have, and the fact you collect stamps.

  50. The Introduction answers three questions:

  51. Why this subject?

  52. Why this speaker?

  53. Why now?

  54. A good Introduction will give you, the speaker, great credibility and should peak the audience to want to hear you!

  55. Presentation.

  56. There are two parts to your presentation; Content and Delivery. I’m not going to go into all the elements of each of these in this article, but it’s important to note:

  57. Delivery trumps Content.

  58. You may be the world’s leading authority on a topic, but if your delivery doesn’t educate, entertain, and explain it in a simple manner, they’ll never GET IT!

  59. Delivery has two elements: Verbal and Non-Verbal.

  60. Non-Verbal trumps Verbal.

  61. Your audience believes what it sees.

  62. Be Audience Centered.

  63. This is one of the Laws of Presentation.

  64. In most cases, the attendees didn’t come to see and hear you speak. (Sorry, you’re not that important!) They came to learn something.

  65. Stay focused on them, what they want to receive, and what you offer that will benefit them.

  66. Eliminate “stuff” about yourself irrelevant to your message.

  67. Not doing this will disengage them from your presentation.

  68. Tell Personal Stories.

  69. The formula for the body of a speech is: Make a point, tell a story reinforcing that point. Make it a personal story, not someone else’s story that many have heard.

  70. People love stories of overcoming obstacles, persistence, and adventure. Telling them well will keep people listening and engaged.

  71. Ask Questions.

  72. Get people to pay attention by asking something like, “How many believe. . .?”

  73. Follow up with, “How many don’t believe. . .?”

  74. Note: Raising your hand will get more to raise their hand.

  75. Mention Specific Attendees.

  76. Example: “As you were arriving this morning, I had a conversation with. . .”

  77. Hearing your name or the name of someone you know perks up our listening.

  78. Give a “Shout Out” to some in the audience.

  79. Example: I recently attended a talk where the speaker said, “If you want to improve your presentation skills, you might want to have a conversation with Fred.”

  80. WOW! That certainly grabbed me, and I know others caught the non-solicited endorsement.

  81. Humor.

  82. We love to laugh. Humor triggers an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.

  83. Those engaged will enjoy the moment and anticipate more.

  84. People who “missed” it, are more prone to focus on you hoping they’ll join in laughter the next time your remarks go that direction.

  85. Props.

  86. We have three learning styles: Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (learning by doing.) Having your presentation appealing to two or more of those styles increase the odds your audience will GET IT!

  87. A rule about props: put them out of site when not using, else they become a distraction. This applies to slides, also, where the screen can be made to go blank.

  88. Doing this brings the eyes and attention of the audience to you, the presenter.

  89. Sound Effects.

  90. Buzzers, horns, and other audio clips can be added to your slides and help audience engagement.

  91. Example: I deliver a presentation on developing an Elevator Speech. As we “get in the elevator and go up.” each floor is preceded by a “Ding!” before the “door opens.”

  92. I also have “Elevator Music” playing for the audience as they arrive.

  93. They don’t have to be recorded. If you’re a performer, thru instruments or other means, the same end can be accomplished.

  94. Video.

  95. Video combines two learning styles; visual and auditory.

  96. Having a great video clip, relevant to your presentation, engages the audience by introducing another voice besides yours.

  97. Example: When I talk about the benefits of Failing, I use clip of super star Michael Jordan talking about having, “failed over and over and that’s why – I succeed!”

  98. Move!

  99. If addressing a large audience, select several “anchor points” on the stage where you can deliberately walk to and talk more directly to people seated in front of that spot.

  100. Don’t pace back and forth because it will distract people from your message.

  101. Direct the Audience to Do Something.

  102. I’m not a fan of “Stand up and stretch.” or “Introduce yourself to those seated next to you,” but but prefer something like, “You’re going to want to write this down. . .”

  103. Clean and Simple Rule!

  104. Avoid buzz words, acronyms, and techno-speak.

  105. No one wants to feel stupid. Verbiage that does that will lose the audience.

  106. Use high quality, universally understood images on your slides.

  107. Being confused by images on a screen is one way to turn off an audience.

I’m going to close this post with a Challenge and a Prediction.

Here’s my Challenge: Review and use some of the above suggestions for keeping your audience engaged.

Do that, and my Prediction is this:

Your next presentation will be absolutely, positively – NO SWEAT!


About the Author Fred E. Miller is a speaker, a coach, and the author of the book, “No Sweat Public Speaking!”

Businesses, Individuals, and Organizations hire him because they want to improve their Networking, Public Speaking, and Presentation Skills.

They do this because they know:

Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.

They also know: We perceive really great speakers to be Experts. Perception is reality, and we like to work with Experts.

He shows them how to: Develop, Practice, and Deliver ‘Knock Your Socks Off Presentations!’ with – NO SWEAT!


  1. Keynote Speaker

  2. Workshop Facilitator

  3. Breakout Sessions

  4. Public Speaking and Presentation Coaching

  5. Topics:

  6. Lessening The Fear of Public Speaking with – NO SWEAT!

  7. Crafting Your Elevator Speech, Floor by Floor with – NO SWEAT!

  8. Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.

  9. We are All Self-Employed!

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