I recently attended a
workshop, conducted by an experienced professional
speaker. As part of the session, we were all given
an opportunity to deliver a short presentation. My
presentation included a bit of audience interaction.
After I completed my presentation, our host strongly
suggested that, as speakers, we should never engage
our audience. His argument was that we relinquish
control when we do this, and may find it difficult
to get that control back.
I have to tell you, I have
over thirty years of experience, having been in the
entertainment business, and in the speaking
business, and I would beg to differ. I engage my
audience at every opportunity. Though it does
require some skill to maintain control at times, the
rewards are well worth whatever risk is present.
Your audience members donít
want to be static recipients of your message. They
want to be a part of the show. That doesnít mean you
should be getting them on the stage, although that
can, and should, happen occasionally. It does mean,
however, that they want to be, at the very least,
mentally and emotionally involved.
There are safe ways to engage
your audience and still maintain control. For
example, you can have them raise their hands, have
them stand up, have them yell out answers to your
questions, or even have them catch things you toss
out to them, always in a safe fashion, obviously!
These are very simple ways to engage your audience,
and it takes nothing away from your performance, but
it brings your audience into the game with you.
There is one stipulation that
should be noted, however. Audience engagement must
have a purpose, other than to get them engaged.
There must be a reason for getting them to do
something. Otherwise, it comes across as a tactic,
and not an important part of the session. If youíre
going to ask for them to raise their hands, do
something with that resulting show of hands. Explain
the purpose of the exercise. Have a point to it all.
Iíve seen many speakers ask
their audience to interact, with no explanation or
reason behind the interaction. This gets old very
fast, and your audience will stop complying, or
comply out of politeness, and begrudge you every
minute of it.
So, whatís the lesson? Get
your audience engaged, but with a purpose in mind,
and youíll keep their attention.