Let the Audience Speak

An effective way to maintain rapport during a presentation is to let the audience speak. I don’t mean audience members will get up during your speech and make a presentation themselves, but there are ways of encouraging them to speak which connects them to the speaker and the speaker to them. This also heightens audience interest in what the speaker is saying. Let’s look at some ways to make this happened.

Encourage the audience to sing with you. You don’t even have to be able to carry a tune. Sometimes you can refer to a familiar song that has a point you are making in your presentation. Sing a line of the song and invite the audience to sing with you. This will at least provoke a smile and maybe a chuckle. I talk about reframing messages as a way to handle disagreements; I use Rudolph and show how guiding the reindeer with the light from his red nose was reframing the problem he faced. Then I start singing, “Then one foggy Christmas Eve,…” and ask the audience to join in.

Put a sentence or idea on the screen and ask a member of the audience to speak it aloud. I talk about the excitement in sharing information and stress punching out key words. I put a sentence on the screen such as, “That is the ugliest dog I have ever seen.”  I ask someone to read the sentence stressing “ugliest” and then ask for others to read the sentence stressing other words in the sentence. Of course stressing a different word gives the sentence an entirely different meaning. It is entertaining, audience members laugh, and rapport is enhanced.

Provide a reason for audience members to contribute personal information. I talk about remembering names and then use some of the names of audience members to demonstrate how to remember that name. This personalizes the information and the audience provides the evidence to illustrate the point.

Applaud those who participate. After any of the above activities, have the audience applaud those who participated. I find that it is a natural action to take after someone has successfully accomplished what I asked of them and everyone seems to enjoy affirming other members of the group.

If the audience speaks during your speech, then your words will more likely be remembered; the audience has helped make your points. At the least a speaking audience will stay interested longer and will be more alert when they know that they as well as you will have opportunities to talk during your talk.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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