“How can I be more engaging when I speak?”
This is a question I get asked all the time. Other variations include:
“How do I make my presentations more interesting?“
“What can I do to be more charismatic?“
“How do I hold the audience’s attention?“
While these are all valid questions, I have found they can create more nerves and anxiety around speaking.
Because they focus on YOU, the speaker. They suggest being ‘interesting’ or ‘charismatic’ or ‘engaging’ is something you have to achieve in order to be effective.
But who decides if you’re ‘interesting’ or not? Is every audience member’s definition of ‘interesting’ the same? Probably not.
Think about your favourite TV show that you could binge watch all weekend. Chances are, you know someone who finds that same TV show incredibly dull.
It’s a matter of personal preference – and it’s the same when you attempt to ‘perform’ for your audience.
Instead, I challenge you to ask a different question:
“How can I engage with my audience more?”
Notice this question shifts the focus from YOU t o your AUDIENCE. It’s no longer about your audience finding YOU to be engaging – rather, it’s about your ability to give your audience the attention and make the effort to engage with them.
See the difference?
6 Ways To REALLY Engage Your Audience:
1. Develop a real genuine curiosity about your audience
Actually care about why they are there. What challenges are they having? Are they in a good state of mind? Do they have things they want to learn? What knowledge do they have? How can they contribute to the discussion? The more you actually care about your audience, the more comfortable (and excited) you will feel engaging with them.
2. Ask your audience questions
Think about your presentation as a conversation you are having with your audience. In The C Method Academy, our premium member training program, I ran two classes recently where we focused entirely on asking simple questions and then engaging in a conversation with the audience. Such questions can include “Who here has heard of ____ ?” “Who read the report from last week?” “Who is struggling with ____ ?”
And (refer to point 1 above) – actually care about their answers. Say “Oh wow, it looks like most of you have done ___!” or “Oh I can see you’re already quite knowledgable about ____.” Don’t just say “Ok great!” and move on.
3. Use their names
Dale Carnegie said: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”
One of the benefits of video calls is you can see each person’s name on the screen – there is no problem with forgetting names, so use it to your advantage! Call people by their name, acknowledge them when they join the call, and thank them and use their name when they contribute. It’s a simple way to engage with them and build rapport.
4. Connect through your non verbals
If you want to really connect with your audience, your non verbal communication needs to align with your words. To do this make eye contact – on a video call, this means staring down the barrel of your webcam. This way, each audience member feels like you’re looking at them directly.
Another thing you can do is to lean IN to the camera with your body, and keep your arms open and welcoming. Show that you want to be connected with THEM. For awesome insights on non verbals, check out the podcast I did with Dr Louise Mahler.
5. Do an activity
Most of the time, at least a quarter of your audience will be ‘doers’, which means they learn and engage through doing an activity. It could be as simple as asking them to write down an answer to a question. In Zoom, you can use breakout rooms to encourage discussion in small groups. The best part? You don’t have to do anything except give clear instructions! The rest is up to your audience.
Listen to the podcast to hear the 6th way to engage with your audience more!