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How to improve your presentation skills – audience interaction

With ever diminishing attention spans audience interaction is the key. But how do you do it in business presentations?

In another blog we covered why audience interaction, even in business presentations is so important, but so often played down out. If you want to improve your audience interaction skills then follow these advanced presentations tips:

Pace the audience – by pacing I mean mind reading or guessing what the audience are thinking right now and repeat that back to them. This will make the audience feel more comfortable, as though they aren’t the only one and this means they become happier to join in. It may not sound easy but I assure you it can be done and asking questions is a great way to begin to do that.

For example near the beginning of our presentation skills training:

Step 1 – to prepare and pace the audience I might say;

“When I mention pre-work, is that little voice going off in your head saying…’

“Oh no I didn’t get time to finish mine yet!””

Ask the audience questions that help you tailor your content to where they are right now.

If you don’t know the audience well this is a great way to ensure you pitch your information at the right level. You can see me doing that in this video.

You might want to say for example: “how many people here are already using X product?” “And how many people aren’t aware of product X?” and then “So the rest are aware of it, but just not using it now – right?”

Let’s look at this technique step by step:

Step 2 – so going back to my example the actual question I want them to answer might be:

“Just so I can get a feel for where we are- who here has done their pre prep?”

Then I’ll put my hand up and wait for audience response.

Step 3 – when you do this yourself you need to encourage people to engage and pop their hands up too.

You could nod at those who raised their hands, and to encourage further, whilst smiling and nodding say

“Anyone else?”

Step 4 –   Then it’s good to cover your bases and ask the opposite question to ensure everyone in the audience is involved so then I’d ask

“And who here hasn’t yet had a chance to do their pre-prep work yet?”

Then encourage those people to put their hands up. This is a kind of embarrassing question to admit to, but by mentioning it earlier on and with a fun approach you can get an honest answer. After all it’s better to know than not.

And finally – You want to aim for almost 100% to have raised hands…..if not you’ll want to:

improvise to include the others – for example:

“Who’s not going to raise their hands whatever I say….or (as I say in the video here)

……who’s here just for the free buffet?!”

These type of questions are great at the beginning of the presentation, and also at the beginning of any new topics to get a real feel for where the people in the audience are. Of course the whole point is to then adapt your presentation, if only round the edges to fit their needs.

Referring back to their answers throughout the presentation also works well as it demonstrates you listened to them and helps you to adapt your content accordingly.

There is more information on audience interaction in our Taming your Public Speaking Monkeys book.

If you would like to learn how to improve your presentations skills then take a look at our presentation training courses or contact us today to talk through any questions you may have. We work with companies (and individuals) offering presentation courses with fast results and step-changes in their teams’ presentation skills.

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