Audiences are made up of individual people. The art of successful public speaking is talking to an audience as if you are talking to one person. To really have an impact on your audience, to really connect with them on a personal level and have them engaged in what you are sharing with them is the measure of public speaking success.
When we talk to someone individually there are things we do that help us to connect with that other person, such as:
- making eye contact
- facing them
- asking questions
- telling stories
- smiling and
- using gestures
As a public speaker these encourage audience interaction because audiences want to be entertained as well as informed and a lively, personable presenter is one who connects with their audience so that the audience feels they are part of the presentation and can respond to the speaker.
A sure-fire way to increase audience participation is to ask your audience questions or get them to do something active – even something as simple as writing down some ideas. Then you get to interact with the audience and they feel connected to you as the presenter.
People also like to know how the information that you, as a public speaker, is presenting to them will help them. Get them to do things that make them think about how they can use your information. You’ll get more audience interaction and participation if people feel the information is relevant to them as individuals and that they can apply it to their work and life.
To be able to get audience participation it’s vital that you know who your audience is and why you are presenting to them. When preparing a presentation it’s a good idea to ask yourself:
- What is my presentation aiming to achieve?
- What is my audience really interested in?
- What are some of the characteristics of my audience members?
- What would be really useful to my audience?
You will present differently according to the type of people who make up your audience. You wouldn’t present your material in the same way to a group of managers as you would to a group of high school students or a group of retirees. Although your topic might be the same for all these audiences, what you will focus on and the way you’ll present your material will be focused on the types of people who are listening.
So, audience interaction and audience participation are crucial for public speaking success and the secret is to understand your audience and to personally connect with them as individual people.
Remember, the more audience participation and interaction that has happened during your presentation the more you as a public speaker and your message will be remembered and acted on.