10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Interact with the audience

Tip #9: Interact with the audience!

OK. You’re in the middle of a presentation. Look up for a sec – what do you see? People! They came to hear you talk. Why not let them do some of the talking, too?

Make sure to interact with your audience. Why? Well – first, a selfish reason: it makes the presentations much more fun for the speaker. Lively audiences with lots of questions or comments just makes the presentation that much more interesting for everyone (assuming those comments relate to the topic).

Interaction also makes you, the presenter, seem friendlier and more approachable, too. Sometimes, I’d guess it even helps the audience develop bond, even just a little bit (you know, that “oh, they have the same questions I do” type of thing).

How do you get interaction during a presentation? Some ideas:

  • Ask for it. Ask a question … then be quiet. Someone is bound to answer. If they mumble the answer, it’s your job to ask them to speak up.
  • Include some “what do you think” questions in your presentations.
  • Tell people up front to ask questions as they come up (then actually stop presenting and answer the question)
  • Do a Q&A at the end of your talk. If it’s a long talk, pepper Q&A times in with the talk.
  • For longer talks, break up the audience into teams and have them do some 5-10 minute project, then report back to the larger group.

And there are probably others. What works for you? How do you encourage your audience to interact with you?

  • http://twitter.com/adamstjohn Adam StJohn Lawrence

    John! I’d take issue with this point:

    “Do a Q&A at the end of your talk.”

    Try, “Do a Q&A just BEFORE the end of your talk”.

    The close of the talk is the most important part, and it needs to be in your hands. If you close with questions, the last thing that happens is… that there are no more questions. And no more questions means no more interest and no more energy. That’s closing with a fizzle, not a bang.

    “Sooo… No more questions? OK, well, thanks, er….” (folks are leaving already as they know there is no more to be said).

    So I urge folks to have the Q&A (if there is one) just before the close.
    “I’m going to take some questions now, then I have one more thing to say before we break”.

    This leaves the ending firmly in your hands, allowing you to close with a strong call for action, a spectacular point, a stunt – something energetic that they will remember.

    Try it, it works!

  • Jeff Cockrell

    Actually, you should close your presentation, conduct your Q&A.  At the end of your Q&A session, restate your close.

    You crafted your presentation to leave your audience with a particular thought or point of view.  Don’t let a (potentially) great Q&A session overshadow the point YOU wanted to make.