Be engaging with your audience

by Arlene.

Regardless of size involve your audience. Your material will be more memorable and you will probably be asked back.

Tell a story. People remember stories; they add impact, set the scene, tune the audience in to the tone of your work and are fun to do. Your story will be relevant to the topic, personal to something you or someone you know well has done. One way is to make a point, and link that to what the audience needs, by telling a story.

When I speak on enhancing leadership skills I make a point that leaders are expected to lead change and make decisions. The audience will usually nod and smile knowingly. I link that to handling difficult staff in times of change.

Many of the audience will be in a position to make similar decisions to the one I made; they are therefore interested in hearing what I did. I tell a story about a staff member who was not fulfilling her contract of employment. Clearly my tactful approach did not go according to plan, yet offered me significant growth as a leader. I finish by asking the audience to think of a situation when they were less than ready to speak to a difficult staff member, what they did about it and what they would do differently now. The impact of sharing my story encourages discussion.


You involve people by asking questions. If you notice what happens when someone asks a question, your brain automatically sifts through memory to find an answer. In other words you are involved with the speaker. If you do not want them to answer then phrase it as a rhetorical question. For example with leaders, “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Nelson Mandella?” If you want them to respond ask them to raise hand, stand up, sit down; anything that gets them moving and engaged with your content.

Link to them emotionally

Be direct and use the word “you”. Even with large audiences using “I believe you will choose to…”; “are you aware of…” makes it very personal. A word of advice: using plural words such as “well folks”, “guys”, “people”, “all of you” is impersonal and shuts down people. I often start with a song, it surprises the audience and allows me to make a point or ask a question when I have finished.

Be seen, be heard, be great

60% of information comes through the visual and emotional modes. Check your material is lively and upbeat. Is your material good to look at and easy to read? Consider how to connect through your visual aids, perhaps give out objects they can touch and interact with.

Engaging with your audience needn’t be hard with a little creativity. Keep them thinking all the way through, then they will effectively listen to you and take away all you have to say.