How to Keep Your Audience Engaged
Surefire Ways to Capture and Keep Your Conference Audience’s Attention
Let’s face it, people are busier (and more distracted) than ever. They are constantly thinking about work, family, or social engagements. And there’s an entire world of potential distractions at their fingertips: cell phones give people immediate access to emails, texts, social media accounts, and games. So, there’s a lot of pressure on a conference speaker to capture an audience’s attention; and once their attention is peaked, there’s even more pressure to keep them engaged throughout the presentation.
There’s nothing worse than listening to someone read bullet points from powerpoint slides. So, below we’ve compiled some ways to avoid that completely, if possible!
Mix up the presentation formats.
The best way to get and keep your audience engaged is to think of them as participants instead of attendees. Create a roadmap for presentations that maximize audience participation and provides an experience at every turn (rather than lecture after lecture).
Rather than the traditional keynote and break-out lecture format, consider offering interactive and relatively brief sessions. One way to break up the monotony is through ‘lightning talks’ where one session will have several speakers giving talks for just a few minutes each. Limiting each speaker’s time ensures that their message is short and concise, allowing more time for Q&A.
Another popular format is ‘campfire sessions’ which begin a lot like a traditional presentation, with a speaker (or multiple speakers) at the front of the room presenting an idea to a group of people. After 15 or 20 minutes, however, the focus shifts from the presenter to the audience where the presenter becomes a facilitator, inviting comments, insights, and questions from those in the room. Campfire sessions allow attendees to drive their own learning and share experiences with others, which encourages networking.
Consider several different formats for your conference sessions to keep your audience on their toes. Panel discussions are always popular, although, moderated interviews are gaining in popularity. A lively (yet knowledgeable) moderator asking pointed questions in a seemingly informal setting, similar to late-night talk shows, is a creative way to mix things up!
The easiest way to keep your audience engaged throughout an event is to embrace technology. Start by investing in a mobile app that attendees can download prior to your event. Include speaker bios, event schedules, and attendee information. This will ensure that they are prepared to participate in your sessions. In addition, offer live polling apps to your speakers and [highly] encourage their use throughout their presentations.
Having presenters ask questions and share audience answers live during the event will encourage the audience to stay engaged. Answers can be measured and a presentation can change direction to keep things interesting. It certainly beats the old ‘raise your hand if…’ tactic that measures nothing.
Creating virtual activities through a mobile app or social media will help to spice things up. Scavenger hunts tied to sponsors and presenters are also popular and relatively easy to implement in an event app. If your audience is going to be tied to their phones anyway, why not take advantage and get them tied to your event while they’re at it?