The Do’s and Don’ts of Audience Interaction

The problem with many business presentations is that they don’t have a two-way interaction.  Oftentimes the presenter simply pushes information at the audience.  While this might seem like an easy approach to presenting, the fact is it’s not effective.  The object of any presentation is for the audience to absorb and retain the information and research has shown that the best way to do this is by engaging the audience.  Therefore, speakers need to take a more interactive approach if they truly want to deliver a meaningful presentation.  The following are just a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to interacting with your audience.

DO Start with a Question

When it comes to presentations, most people are used to being talked to rather than being asked to share their own thoughts.  Opening with a question is a great way to reverse the audience’s expectation. You can start by asking the audience what they hope to get out of the presentation or why they are there.  You can also ask an engaging question that will get their minds thinking. 

DON’T Speak Immediately After the Question is Asked

All too often presenters make the mistake of answering their own question and not giving the audience time to respond on their own.  If you choose to ask the audience a question, you need to be silent for a few seconds so they know you want a response.  You are not engaging the audience if you are answering for them.  Give them a chance to think for a few minutes and provide an actual response.

DO Encourage the Audience to Ask Questions throughout the Presentation

Start your presentation by telling the audience you want their questions and you expect interaction.  Encourage them to raise their hand if they choose and also explain that you will have designated times throughout the presentation when they can ask questions.  This will help to keep the audience’s attention because they will keep coming up with questions they want to ask you.

DON’T Save all Questions Until the End

While there is nothing wrong with ending your presentation with a Q&A session, it is important to encourage questions throughout the presentation.  Otherwise, you risk losing audience attention and they may have forgotten what they wanted to ask by the end of the presentation.  Furthermore, the questions will be more relevant when they are asked while the information is being presented.

DO Get the Audience Up and Moving

When we think of presentations we typically imagine sitting in our seat for a lengthy period of time without moving.  That is exactly why movement will make your presentation more interesting and engaging.  You can use simple movements like asking for a show of hands and standing or sitting to show agreement or you can take things a step further by breaking your audience into small groups.  You can even ask your audience members to move seats halfway through your presentation.  The action of moving to a new seat helps to break up the monotony and keep the audience interested. 

DON’T Stand in One Place During Your Entire Presentation

The movement rule goes for the speaker too.  It’s quite boring to listen to a speaker who stands at the podium for the duration of the presentation.  When you are presenting, it is important to move around the stage or the room.  Walk up and down the aisles.  Move closer to the audience.  These movements will captivate the audience’s attention and help you make a connection.

DO Turn to Twitter

Social media has become a staple component of the modern business world so you might as well embrace it and use it to your advantage.  After all, you are going to be competing with the audience members’ phones for their attention so you might as well give them a reason to use their phone.  One of the simplest ways to interact with your audience via social media is to create a unique hashtag for your presentation.  Make sure it is visible during your entire presentation and encourage audience members to tweet questions or comments during the talk.  Display the tweets a few times throughout the presentation to discuss comments and answer questions.  It is a great way to get even those shy audience members to interact during the presentation. 

DON’T Simply Read from a Slide

No one wants to come to a presentation to be read to.  Therefore, if you are going to use technology you must at least incorporate in a way that will be interactive.  While it is perfectly acceptable to use a slideshow during your presentation, make sure you find an alternate means to interact with the audience.