It is much easier to capture the attention of an audience than to keep them immersed and engaged long enough to pass across your message.
With the ever-increasing distractions looming on the horizon, from social media to games and other eye-grabbing content waiting to be consumed, it takes serious discipline to sit still and give ear to what someone has to say.
Studies show that 39% of listeners at presentations admit to nodding off, and 91% to daydreaming at some point. It is important to make the task of listening easier on your audience by actively engaging them.
Audience interaction, participation, and engagement do not magically happen—it’s up to the speaker to light the fuse and keep it burning.
How well you understand your audience, your ability to properly structure your narrative, and how well you deliver will determine whether they get engrossed or bored with your presentation.
No matter how complicated or technical your topic of discussion, you can create a valuable learning experience for your audience during your next live coaching session by incorporating these four simple tricks to boost engagement.
1. Present a problem your audience encounters and show your ideas to solve them
Nobody wants to sit through a coaching session that they can’t relate to and will not impact their lives in some way. It’s a waste of their time and yours. You need to make sure that your listeners care about the story you are telling.
From the very beginning of your presentation, you need to create a reality that your audience can relate to and offer some insight into what they stand to benefit from listening to you.
If you’re unable to give your audience a reason to show interest in what you have to say, how can you hope to keep them engaged?
Tell them why your presentation is important to them. If you’re talking about how to start a profitable side hustle, for example, begin with exciting stories of people who have successfully pulled that off. Describe your own experience with the subject matter.
Use changes or turning points to help your audience stay on track or recapture their attention as soon as it is lost. Humans are hardwired to notice when change occurs. We notice when a light comes on and when it goes off even though we don’t pay attention in between.
Some of the ways you can take advantage of this human quirk to maximize audience engagement are:
- Switch visual mediums. For instance, go from flipchart to slides to infographics and back.
- Change audience activity. Make them go from listening to talking to their neighbour, taking a poll, etc.
- Use clear distinctions to introduce subtopics.
- Take a little pause before and after important statements.
- Play a short video.
- Use different styles of delivery to drive your content home. When telling a story, be chatty and emotional. Switch to a deliberate and measured tone when making factual or technical statements.
2. Create opportunities for hands-on practice
When your audience is required to physically engage in some activity as part of the coaching process, you’re more likely to keep their attention because they’ll feel they are part of the conversation.
Forget about the PowerPoint or slide deck for a bit and try to get the audience to participate directly. You can do this by creating activities they can try out at home or right there in the audience, depending on whether your session is conducted in person or online.
It could be a lighthearted activity meant to loosen them up and bring some fun into the mix or something to test their understanding of what you’ve said so far.
The celebrated talk show host and comedian, Ellen DeGeneres gets her audience to dance at the start of the show to get them engaged and excited about what’s coming next.
Follow in her steps and try to come up with ways to keep your listeners entertained and engaged throughout your session. Research shows that mixing traditional and interactive modes of presentation improves message retention.
Adding a hands-on approach to your coaching session will certainly draw your audience in and keep their minds from wandering off better than if you gave a long speech while moving from slide to slide.
3. Use tech tools to encourage the audience to ask questions or join the conversation
When it comes to coaching sessions, presentations, lectures, and even meetings, most people are accustomed to being spoken to rather than asked to share their viewpoints. Throwing a question to the audience puts a spin on that narrative and allows them to actively take part.
Begin your session by informing your listeners that you’d like to hear their questions and be sure to do continuous check-ins to see if they’re still flowing with you.
With the aid of tools like Sli.do and MeetingPulse, you can get your audience to send in questions or answers, and vote in polls in real-time.
This not only allows more people who might ordinarily be conscious of speaking in public to participate, but it also allows you to get real-time feedback that you can use immediately.
You will be able to tell if you’re getting your message across and how engaged your audience is at every point in time. You can then answer the questions right away or acknowledge and save them for the end of your presentation.
Depending on the size of your audience, you might not be able to monitor the incoming questions, comments, or polls on your own, so you’ll need to enlist help.
Keep in mind that the success of a live coaching session—be it in person or virtual—is dependent on the tech you and your audience use.
Slow PCs, outdated software, malfunctioning cameras and microphones or slow internet make live coaching sessions fail, or at the very least, reduce participation and engagement.
Before your session, carry out tests to ensure that your audio, video, and other tools are in tip-top shape. You can also create instructions or a guide for your intended audience ahead of time to help them prepare for the session.
Your guide can include tips on how to speed up computers, test the strength of their internet access, and prevent other technical difficulties that may arise.
4. Incorporate catchy visual aids
How captivating your visual content is can make a world of difference for audience interaction and engagement. Design your deck or slides in a way that’s stimulating and gripping enough to get people to sit and listen to you for however long you want.
Don’t just throw in stock-photos or poor quality images and illustrations. They will make your deck look untidy and poorly thought out.
Take your time to create custom-made, high-quality infographics, icons, illustrations, videos, images, and other visual content that communicate the information you want to share. This lends a sense of importance and value to your data.
However, your on-screen text should be concise, so the audience doesn’t face too much difficulty while trying to read them and listen to you at the same time.
Whether you’re looking to boost attendance, improve message retention, or increase audience interaction and engagement, putting these techniques to work can help get you there.
Live coaching or presentations no longer have to be a nerve-racking or dull affair. You can keep your audience tuned in to what you have to say from start to finish, get them to buy into your ideas, and move them to act to bring those ideas to fruition.