Tell the audience what you want them to do

By on   2 comments 400 words, read ~524 times.

I do lots of public speaking as part of my job. I'd like to share one of my tips for giving engaging and impactful talks.

Two caveats:

  1. This is a sort-of work post. In that, I'll be discussing something I did for my employer - but they haven't asked me to write this, nor have they reviewed it.
  2. Just because this works for me, doesn't mean it is right for you. Sometimes you have to find your own path.

Here it is...

Tell the audience what you want them to do.

It's that simple. I quite often say "Stick your hands up if you..." or "Give me a cheer if you've ever..." it's a cheap and effective way of getting the audience to engage with you. They think about what you're saying and get a little dopamine boost from sticking their hand up (I know the answer!) or vocalising (I'm part of the team!)

Recently, I tried something new.

During a talk I stuck up a simple slide and said:

Take a photo of that. Tweet It. Print it on a T-Shirt. Send it to your CEO and your developers.

And, do you know what happened? People did!
24 tweets from people - including photos of the slide.

A few more points to note:

  • The slide was designed with the room in mind. Large text, so even people at the back could read it. (Huge thanks to Matt Stibbs for his work designing the slides).
  • The message was intended to be empowering and specifically aimed at the right audience.
  • Some people love Tweeting from conferences. It makes them feel connected with a wider audience - and shows their boss that they're not wasting time being out of the office.

A sound-bite in PowerPoint form.

It doesn't always work

I'll let you into another secret. This only works some of the time. I've been in front of audiences who refuse to stick their hands up, or participate with anything going on.

Some people are grumpy. Some just don't want to do anything but stay slumped in a chair and passively listen. Other people strongly dislike audience participation. That's OK. You don't need to force people into mandatory-funtime, and you don't need to be embarrassed by your enthusiasm.

So ask the audience to play along, tell them what you want them to do, and find ways to help them be part of something brilliant.

Share this post on…

2 thoughts on “Tell the audience what you want them to do

  1. Lucy says:

    Blimey! That's an amazing lot of engagement - well done. And nice article. Thanks.


What are your reckons?

All comments are moderated and may not be published immediately. Your email address will not be published.