Keeping the attention of an audience is hard work. Modern audience members, whether at a conference, a small internal meeting within a company or in a training session, are not as easy to engage with as audiences of the past. Our appetite for different techniques, visual stimuli and interactive elements in anything we “consume” has evolved in recent times, and it is important that any person — learning professionals, included — giving a presentation understands what it takes to genuinely engage with an audience.

Let’s look at how to engage, connect and inspire a modern audience.

Engaging With an Audience

The biggest challenge to giving an effective presentation is to make a genuine connection with the audience — to inspire them, get them thinking, talking, asking questions and genuinely finding interest in what you are talking about. This can be difficult, especially if you are required to speak in front of a crowd for a long period of time (for instance, in lengthy in-person instructor led-training sessions).

It can be difficult to keep people from looking at their phones, staring off into the distance daydreaming or even falling asleep in the worst cases! This can be especially true in a training context, as the facilitator will have to make sure that the content is delivered in a manner that will stick in learners’ minds and ensure that their attention is maintained throughout the session.

What Is an Interactive Presentation?

One of the best ways to boost engagement is to deliver an interactive presentation. An interactive presentation is one where the audience has the option to take part — to ask questions, to give their feedback and opinion on matters as they are discussed, and to potentially interact with elements of the presentation along the way.

For many, a PowerPoint presentation conjures up memories of boring presentations or lectures that seem to drag on, complete with long monologues that are duller than watching paint dry. An interactive presentation, however, transforms the audience experience into one of genuine engagement, where the audience is involved at every step of the journey.

How Can You Make a Presentation Interactive?

There are a few ways to make a presentation interactive, both in terms of content and delivery. For example:

Include videos.

Videos as part of a presentation certainly liven things up and make for a more interactive and engaging connection between presenter and attendees. It helps to break up chunks of talking, adds to the discussion, can be used to illustrate a point, or introduce a new discussion and question and answer session. People are generally stimulated through visual elements more than just audio.

Ask questions.

Interactive elements in the presentation itself is one thing, but getting the audience actively involved can take several forms. Ask the audience questions as you are moving through the presentation, as it allows them to interact and feel part of the process. It also helps the person giving the presentation to track feedback and see what works and what doesn’t.

Add interactive polls.

There are a few ways to offer options for the audience to interact with you during a presentation. Adding active poll questions where the results are live and changing on screen in real-time can help get people talking, whilst an active word cloud offers instant visualization of what the audience wants to ask you and what they feel about the subject matter.

Utilize audio and visual elements.

Little bits of music and visual effects, bright colors and even simple bullet points throughout a presentation are a great way to keep your learners’ attention. Music can be used to evoke certain emotions at key points during a presentation, and relevant images and videos can bring life to otherwise boring slides.

Leave room for questions from the audience.

Allowing space for the audience to ask questions is an important interactive element that often gets overlooked or is often ignored by the audience if it feels like the speaker is just paying lip service to the idea of interaction. Consider leaving time for anonymous questions that attendees can submit through their smartphones or ask them to raise their hands and ask a question directly. Note: Learners will be more inclined to ask questions if you use other interactive elements in your presentation or training session, such as those outlined above.

A Q&A session also gives the facilitator, and learners, the chance to share useful insights with the group that they can take back and share with their colleagues.

Use a flexible design for intuitive storytelling.

Good presentation designs include modern techniques that allow for greater flexibility and movement within the presentation slides. This allows for more off the cuff movement, giving the audience more control as to where they would like the conversation to go.

A presentation company can go a long way to helping you put together a powerful presentation that genuinely connects with the audience, engages with the listeners, connects and inspires them. Too often, when it comes to presentations, speeches and meetings, there can be a disconnect between the intended results and the actual outcome, with dry, outdated presenting techniques failing to hit the mark and pique the audience’s interest.

Using interactive elements and learning how to genuinely connect with an audience through modern techniques will help you to take your presentation and training facilitation skills to the next level.