"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."

The premise of learning is experiencing and doing. Participants come into a learning environment with the expectation that they will be engaged in a learning experience. All too often, the instructor or workshop leader, focuses too much attention on him or her/self and forgets the basic tenet of adult learning: We must engage our audience.

As public speakers, how do we engage the audience when there are obstacles, such as very large groups or when we are in a teleconference environment?

In this article I will share some tips for audience engagement that you can add to your bag of tricks. These tips will work depending on your content and your particular environment. The bottom-line is audiences demand more than the simple lecture. They want to experience something that will enable them to walk away feeling this learning was worth their time.

Ten tips to engage your audience

Ask powerful questions. If you audience is very large, you may ask rhetorical questions--Questions you don't expect anyone to answer, but will force the audience to think. Even in a large audience, however, asking a powerful question that a few people respond to, will engage your audience.

Don't answer questions. When questions are asked, boomerang them back to the audience. You need not show off all your knowledge by quickly answering questions. When you boomerang the question back, you show respect for the knowledge in the group as well as once again force the audience to think.

Use brainstorming techniques. Asking the audience to brainstorm ideas gets them directly into building the content. You can brainstorm ideas for the days agenda or for how to solve particular problems. If you have a large audience or are conducting a teleclass, ask people to write down a few ideas before you open it up for discussion. The people must then think of one or two ideas on their own before the group takes over.

Demonstrate. Demonstrate what you are teaching. If you are teaching a certain skill, show the audience by asking from the audience to demonstrate with you. Remember when the magician asked for volunteers to pull the rabbits out of the hat. Audiences love to see one of their own on the stage.

Ask for examples. Do not always jump in with your lovely examples. Instead, ask the audience for examples they can share. Often someone in the audience has had an experience that will capture the point you are trying to make. Make the audience your partner in learning.

Use role plays. Role plays are excellent ways to demonstrate skills. They simulate the real world. You can set up a role play with two people in the audience to "act" each role or you can act along with someone in the audience.

Buzz groups. When you ask powerful questions to large groups, you can ask people to turn to someone else in the group and share responses. Of course, this technique will not work in a teleclass. In a teleclass, you will not be able to facilitate total group sharing at once. You can, however, ask members to respond to questions in a round-robin fashion. In this manner one person is "it." Each person in the class directs a question to that one person. The point is to get deeper and deeper information.

Guided Imagery. Take your participants on a journey in their minds. Make the journey as vivid as possible. They travel together through the meadows, forests or the winding mountain roads. They could travel in time or space, depending on your purpose. Afterwards, you will get some very lively participation from your group.

Use Cases. Develop a particular case that illustrates what you are trying to teach. Get the group involved in solving the case by challenging them to look for alternative solutions that go beyond the box.

Acknowledge. When group members participate, acknowledge their contributions. Remember how good it felt when the "teacher" noticed your idea or your comment in third grade? It still feels good, and it will encourage others to participate. Even if a group member comes up with your most important point, do not steal it from them. Acknowledge their contribution and then build on it.

To learn more about Engaging Your Audience, sign up for the free teleclass at www.TotalCommunicationsCoach.com/teleclasses.

Author's Bio: 

Joan Curtis, EdD is founder of Total Communications Coaching where she specializes in helping smart, capable professionals move ahead in their careers by becoming skilled communicators.
The Total Communication mission is to support, guide and encourage you with the confidence to conquer the challenges you face in engaging your audience. With a little help you can say it---just right. Learn more at www.TotalCommunicationsCoach.com

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