Presentation Tips

How to Keep Your Audience Engaged and When to Get It Involved

Samantha Pratt Lile
March 2, 2021
 min read
How to Keep Your Audience Engaged and When to Get It InvolvedHow to Keep Your Audience Engaged and When to Get It Involved
Table of Contents

You’ve spent hours writing your presentation and designing your slide deck, so obviously, you want your audience to pay attention. How can you ensure you’ve retained viewers’ focus by the time you reach your all-important call to action? Engagement is key to hanging on to your audience’s attention throughout your entire presentation.

But how do you keep people engaged from the start of a presentation to its end? A variety of audience engagement strategies are available, but you’ll need to pull more than one from your arsenal if you want to hold viewers’ attention to your visual presentation. You’ll also want to be sure you use them at the appropriate times.

Interested in more audience engagement activities and tips for audience presentation in a business meeting to include in your next presentation? Check out the following 10 ways to keep your audience engaged and when to get it involved:

1. Tell a story

Storytelling has been used by humankind to relay events and convey messages since we were drawing stick figures on cave walls. If you want audience members to hang on your every word, engage them with a fascinating story. 

What could be better when delivering an effective call to action than audience members already on the edge of their seats? Start storytelling from the start of your presentation to set a positive tone and prime your audience to take action.

2. Nail your delivery

Want to destroy a well-designed presentation? Flub your delivery of it. If you are ill-prepared, stuttering, forgetting information, monotoned or just all-around unorganized, how do you expect an audience to care what you have to say. None of your other engagement ideas will be fully effective if you don’t nail your delivery and present your message with poise and passion.

3. Structure your content

One of the most important audience engagement tools must be addressed as you design your presentation. If you plan a presentation with an effective structure, your audience is more likely to engage with the information presented from beginning to middle to end. After all, what good is storytelling if the audience can’t identify the story? 

According to Duarte CEO and master presenter Nancy Duarte, most great presentations follow the same structure as popular myths, movies and epic tales. The beginning of your presentation should set up the story and attract the audience to the adventure that will follow. 

After presenting all your data, the end of the presentation should include not only your call to action, but an enticement of the audience to imagine what could be if that action is taken. The good news is users have access to all sorts of pre-built presentation templates curated by industry experts, so even an amateur presenter can utilize them to create an effective structure.

4. Include imagery

Adages like, “a picture is worth a thousand words” catch on and hang around for ages because they are profound. After all, 90 percent of the information transmitted to our brains is visual, and about 65 percent of the population are visual learners. Therefore, visual aids and visual storytelling are key elements of any effective presentation. 

Adding infographics, photos and even video will cause your audience to take notice. Fortunately, features a free image library with hundreds of thousands of free vivid, high-quality photos, logos and icons to add to your visual presentation.

5. Add movement

People are attracted to movement, and there is more than one way to infuse a presentation with motion. Visual elements like video and animations will attract eyes on screen, but that’s not the only way to make a presentation move. 

As the presenter, you can interact with and engage your audience if you move. Walk around the audience, use strategic nonverbal language and even use physical props to better engage your audience and bring your presentation to life.

6. Ask and answer questions

What better way to engage an audience than by asking people to physically interact with the presentation or the presenter? Asking the audience questions not only creates that important engagement, but asking the right questions will make audience members think more about the topic. 

But don’t stop at asking the audience questions. Asking the audience questions throughout your presentation or even including a question-and-answer session toward the end of your presentation serves as another effective audience engagement strategy. Answer questions about your presentation or even invite questions about yourself.

7. Tell jokes

People like to laugh. If an audience isn’t already interested in your topic, you can break the ice with a joke or a funny story. According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, humor improves people’s perception of those in a professional setting. 

You don’t have to be a master comic, but don’t assume you are, either. Be sure to test out your jokes with friends, family or colleagues before your presentation, just to be sure your joke doesn’t fall flat or, worse, offend.

8. Gamify the experience

Asking the audience questions isn’t the only way to inspire interaction with your visual presentation. Polls and quizzes are both effective strategies for engaging an audience. 

Technologies like live polling have brought audience participation into the 21st century and have made it easier than ever for viewers to interact with a presentation. These tools can be even more effective when they gamify a presentation. People love to compete, even if it’s over something as simple as a correct or most popular answer.

9. Integrate social media

Audience engagement activities can begin well before you deliver your presentation. Today’s best presenters begin to build excitement for their message by promoting the presentation via various social media channels in the weeks, days and hours before it occurs. 

Tell your potential audience about the engagement strategies you have planned and pique their interest by dropping interesting clues about the topic. You can even expand your audience by creating a shareable hashtag to describe your upcoming presentation.

10. Include activities

Don’t limit audience interaction to answer questions and polls. Get viewers’ blood pumping by integrating physical activity into your presentation. This can be accomplished with entertaining props, fun exercises or even something as simple as a short stretching or greeting session during your presentation. 

Activities not only help wake up your audience members, but physical activity boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels—all chemicals that boost focus and attention.

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha is an independent journalist, editor, blogger and content manager. Examples of her published work can be found at sites including the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and Buzzfeed.