080: 8 Ways to Engage Your Target Audience

by Joe Sherwood on March 13, 2014

8 Ways to Engage Your Target AudienceWhen we have an opportunity to influence or lead people, we can’t assume that sharing information is enough. That’s simply table stakes. Once you know what you want to communicate, you need to think about how to engage your audience and keep them engaged for the duration of the event.

Many people believe their positional authority, or the importance of the material, should be enough to hold everyone’s attention. This is rarely the case. Even Steve Jobs, telling already-passionate followers about Apple gadgets they craved to know about, was very deliberate about engaging and keeping their attention.

Other people feel tired after compiling all the information, and they don’t want to think about how to “get creative” in the way they present it. But without this extra 10% of effort, the entire presentation will be a waste of time.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. Many leaders simply need to think about the variety of ways they could engage the particular audience, and pick what seems like a good fit.

Jesse and Marty discuss 8 tricks that have proven effective in engaging an audience – whether giving a presentation, speaking to employees, or even meeting one-on-one or in a written communication. Use one or more (but not all of them) in any given communication.

  • Tell a story. Anybody can do this, and it works. I’ve shared before about how to use storytelling effectively.
  • Make it visual. Visual always gets more attention than written or verbal alone. Think about how your information could be presented in or enhanced by a diagram or other type of visual.
  • Show a picture. The easiest way to make it visual is to use a large, eye-catching photo. Even this blog post uses a photo to attract eyeballs.
  • Create an infographic. This requires more effort to create, but people just can’t help stopping to look at a poster or online piece with a puzzle-like visual that uses data to tell a story.
  • Ask a question. This could be a rhetorical question, but it’s more effective to ask a question and solicit some responses from the audience. Not only will you fully engage those who respond, but everyone else will be paying attention too. The most engaging use of a question is when you use it shape the rest of the conversation for example, “What are you hoping to learn from me about this topic?”
  • Conduct a poll. Take your question further by making it multiple choice or True/False, and count up the answers (or just make an observation based on raised hands).
  • Quiz them. As school kids, most of us were afraid of pop quizzes. But adults love a quiz that’s just for fun. Rather than telling the audience a fact, ask them to raise their hand for the multiple-choice or true/false answer they think is correct, and then reveal the right answer.
  • Use an audience-response system. To make a quiz or poll easier and more interactive, give your audience (or just a panel of people selected from the audience) a keypad to select their answers. Then provide a graph of the answers, show the correct answer, and display a leaderboard showing the participants who have the most correct answers so far. These systems used to be ridiculously expensive, but today they can be rented fairly inexpensively from vendors such as Turning Events and ARS Rental.

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