A daylong conference is often filled with long speeches, big meals, and a sprinkling of breaks. Guaranteed, there will be times when the audience drifts away from being completely attentive. In fact, recent research tells us that day dreaming occurs about every 10 minutes as the brain gets bored and begins to look for new stimuli to keep it entertained. As a presenter, your challenge is to keep your listeners actively engaged; to not give their brains time to get bored. How?
Here are 3 simple “questioning techniques” you can start using today to actively engage your audience the next time you step-up to speak.
1) Invite questions and comments during the presentation. Most speakers only invite questions, disregarding listeners that may have a valuable comment to make. To keep your audience actively engaged be sure to welcome both questions and comments.
2) Turn the tables and ask listeners a question. Asking questions, even rhetorical questions, engages listeners. As Daniel Pink points out in his new book, “Selling is Human,” when Ronald Reagan was running for President in the midst of a bad economy he could have said “Your economic situation has deteriorated over the past 48 months” and supported the statement with data on the spiraling inflation. Instead he simply asked, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
When you ask a question, your audience is compelled to answer either aloud (or silently, if it is a rhetorical question). This is an active response that moves them from passive listeners to engaged participants.
3) Ask for a show of hands! If you want to really wake up your audience and get them engaged, as you move to a new subject ask for a show of hands about the new topic. For example, say “How many of you have tried to align photos in a slide presentation?” The trick is to maintain eye contact as you ask the question. Dropping your eyes for even a moment signals that your invitation is insincere. Instead, smile and look at your listeners expectantly and listeners are sure to raise their hand!
Try these questioning techniques to keep your listeners awake and engaged!