Three Keys to Engage Any Audience
By Jon Stetson
Running a successful and effective meeting, whether large or small,
requires one key element: engagement. In other words, those
attending your meeting can’t simply sit back and listen. If you want
them to receive true value from your message and take action on your
ideas, you must make the effort to engage your audience. The more
involved and engaged people are, the better their comprehension and
retention of information.
For example, think back to your days in the academic world. Chances
are you had teachers and professors who taught via lecture format,
and others who taught with a hands-on and involvement approach. In
one class you sat in your seat for the prescribed amount of time and
simply listened to your instructor drone on (perhaps taking a few
notes just to stay awake), and in another class you interacted with
the instructor, answering and asking questions, forming project
groups, presenting and receiving ideas, and perhaps even getting up
and moving about the room.
If you’re like most people, the classes you enjoyed most were the
ones where you had involvement and your instructor engaged the
class. For most people, the lecture style classroom was boring and
tedious, and a downright chore to regularly attend. The same concept
hold true in business. Those business professionals who engage
their staff, their meeting attendees, their co-workers, and their
clients fare far better than those who don’t.
are engaged, they pay attention. This then creates a synergy,
because the speaker or meeting leader feels the engagement and
responds with more energy and enthusiasm, which builds even more
engagement. When it’s all over, both recipients of the communication
have a higher reward factor.
To make every
meeting and interaction you have meaningful and engaging, keep the
following engagement principles in mind.
1. It’s about surprise: Connect to your listeners in an
unexpected manner. You want to create an interactive experience that
causes the “a-ha” light to go off in people’s brains and the
“deer-in-the-headlight look” of astonishment to cross their face.
Give people startling facts, tell a relevant joke, engage them with
real-life stories – anything to help form a connection. As you do
this, realize that when you’re conducting a meeting, there is no
stage or divider between you and your attendees. All four corners of
the room are “touchpoints,” so make sure everyone in each of the
four quadrants is engaged and involved in the experience – even
those people who tend to hide in the back row or in the corners.
After all, the meeting is meaningful for people only if the time
spent is unique and vivid.
2. Find a bigger shared interest: People love to share and
talk. If they experience something collectively, they talk about the
experience every time they have the opportunity. Therefore, rather
than just talk to people, give them something to talk about. For
example, you could have them do an exercise together, role play with
volunteers or have attendees act out a skit to drive home a key
point. Always remember that
engagement is about connecting experiences that drive conversations,
long after the engagement is over. When you do so, people will talk
about you, your company or your brand to others. Talk about great
marketing and credibility building that comes at no additional cost
3. Focus on
Never forget that the only people who matter in your
meeting are your attendees. Therefore, make your listeners and/or
attendees the true stars of the show. Focus on their needs and
intertwine examples they give you in casual conversation into your
presentation. Additionally, during your talk, solicit audience
feedback and get their opinion on topics.
Everyone loves to be treated like a VIP.
When you keep your audience actively engaged and
involved, they will become your biggest evangelists. People
being treated as special, which occurs when they are involved, and
as such, their message retention is much greater.
No matter what, always leave your audience with a content driver
that they can remember, act upon and share with others.
The Power of
When you take
the time to engage your listeners, you provide enough value so you
become an indispensible resource to your attendees, who in turn
become your best sales force. Remember, people want something more.
They don’t want to just sit in a chair and listen; they want to feel
a bit livelier. Good meetings engagement is strategic, because
attendees are ready to receive one or more messages you want to
deliver to them. And by engaging and involving your audience, their
heart share and mind share are open to receiving your message. This
then allows you to create, innovate, entertain, and deliver content
in a lasting and meaningful way.
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