In a recent survey we conducted with the help of Harris Poll, almost half of the respondents admitted to doing something other than listening during a co-worker’s presentation—popular answers included sending a text message (28 percent), checking email (27 percent), and falling asleep (17 percent). To say the least, it can be difficult to hold an audience’s attention, let alone get your message across when presenting.
One of the best ways to get your audience to stay focused is to make them feel like they’re a part of your story. There are a few simple things you can do to get your audience to participate in your presentation, by making it more interactive—here’s how.
1. Break the ice. Each of your audience members comes to your presentation in a completely different mood. A simple ice-breaker can put everyone on the same level and energize them for your presentation. Get your audience to do a simple exercise to reset their minds and refocus on your talk. For example, ask people to stand up and introduce themselves to their neighbors, or have them identify two or three questions they would like to hear addressed during your presentation. By starting with an ice-breaker, you show your audience that your talk will be interactive and require their participation.
2. Tell stories. Stories are food of the brain when it comes to the presentations,according to professional public speaking coach Nathan Gold. Storytelling is the most universal way to captivate your audience’s attention, no matter where they are from or what they do for a living. People automatically tune in when you start telling your story because they want to know what happens next. You can go further than dropping a few anecdotes into your speech. Use the storytelling technique that Nancy Duarte found after studying hundreds of TED talks: Present the status quo and then reveal the path to a better way. By following this formula, you set up a conflict that needs to be resolved. You’ll have the audience hanging on the edge of their seats, craving to hear the end of your story.
3. Add videos. With over 6 billion hours of video being watched each month on YouTube alone, it’s hard to believe that still so few presenters use them in their presentations. Videos are a great tool when it comes to giving an engaging presentation. Videos can evoke emotions in an audience that could be otherwise quite difficult to elicit. Find the clip that will put your audience in the right mood and that reinforces your story. With the seamless integration of YouTube videos in Prezi, there is no excuse for not using them.
4. Embrace the power of non-linear presenting. The Prezi experts agree that the real power of Prezi lies in the ability to present your non-linear story. Instead of flipping through slide after slide, you can show the relationships between your ideas and give your audience the “big picture” view of your topic. Try letting your audience drive the presentation—lay out all of your main points, and then let them choose which topics they want to zoom into. Your audience will get a truly custom presentation based on their interests, which they will appreciate and more easily remember.
5. Ask questions during your presentation. Presentation expert and best-selling authorCarmine Gallo pinpointed that the audience’s attention drops to zero after just 10 minutes of your presentation. That’s right, 10 minutes. To get their attention back, Gallo advises creating soft breaks within your speech. Therefore, take a break from your presentation from time to time and interact with your audience. Ask for their questions and incorporate them already during the presentation. Tools like sli.do allow audience members to ask questions anonymously, so even shy people can participate in the discussion.
6. Poll the audience. Live polls are an incredibly effective tool for instantly engaging with your audience. Unlike rhetorical questions, polls encourage participants to think not only about your questions but also about their answers. Moreover, live polls help create mental breaks, so your audience can regain attention and stay focused throughout your presentation. By including everyone in answering the question, you also create a group experience that leaves the audience feeling like they all have been part your presentation. With sli.do, you can integrate live polls seamlessly into your prezis and engage the participants without the need to switch between screens or applications.
7. Use props. You don’t need to be giving a product demo to use props during your presentation. Props are a great way how to help the audience to wire in another senses to absorb your message. So bring props on the stage and show them during the right point to help the attendees visualize what you are describing verbally. Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor brought a real human brain on stage during her touching TED talk to explain to what happened to her when she had a stroke. She touched the audience with this demonstration and left the audience in complete awe.
8. Share the glory. Don’t steal all the glory for yourself. Share the stage with other presenters or the audience members to help you narrate the story and make the whole presentation more interactive. Steve Jobs never pulled off the entire presentation by himself; he always invited several speakers, including designers, partners, and other executives, to help him introduce their latest product. Do the same. Bring someone from the audience onstage and get them do something relevant and fun. This technique should always be arranged with the volunteer in advance.
Juraj Holub is the Social Media and Content Specialist at Sli.do. Sli.do is an award-winning audience engagement platform for live events that allows everyone in the audience to ask questions and vote on live polls via their mobile devices. Sli.do also allows Prezi users to seamlessly integrate live polls into their presentations.