For the seasoned public speaker, it can be difficult coming up with new wants to get people interested in what it is you have to say. You can be the most charismatic speaker in the world, but some topics are naturally dry and difficult to spin in a way that people will be able to connect with. The ideal solution is to make your talk interactive, but how can you do that without picking on poor, unsuspecting members of your audience to contribute ideas and opinions? How to increase engagement at public talks?
The easiest way to get everyone involved is with an audience response system. When everyone enters the room, give them a handheld voting device, which is then received by a hub which converts the data into a graph to display on a screen. This is actually a really good way to get people interacting with you for several reasons.
Firstly, people are far more likely to take in information when they’ve actively engaged with it, rather than simply passively listening to you speaking. There are several approaches you can take to get people taking part in your talk. Firstly, you can use it to gain some sort of public opinion. If you’re heading up a campaign or are conducting a talk about an important issue, you can ask your audience to vote about how they feel about an issue. This can also be useful because it can give you some statistics to work with for the post-event material: ‘80% of the audience believed that…’
Another way they can be used is to inject a bit of fun into the talk. A gameshow-style quiz will allow audience members to use their remotes to answer questions set out by you so you can see how knowledgeable people are on a topic without having to embarrass anyone into vocally sharing their answer with the entire room. If people know they won’t have to speak up, they’re more likely to give their opinion, so you get a better idea of how well the audience grasp your topic.
At the end of the talk, you could use the response systems to find out how much information the audience absorbed with a quickfire round of questions to make sure everyone is taking away the key points of your talk. This means that everyone comes away with the information you wanted them to have, and they feel involved without having to dread being chosen to speak in front of everyone. And usefully for you, you can see whether your public speaking technique is effective enough to get through to your audience so you can improve your future talks.
John Earl works with businesses involved in running exhibitions and training days, to boost user engagement levels