Communication Rebel Blog

4 Simple Ways to Engage Any Audience

When you see yourself making your big presentation how do you imagine your audience?

How do you imagine your audience?

How do you imagine your audience?

Do you see the audience leaning forward, smiling faces and nodding with agreement? Or do you see them checked-out, checking their email and wishing to heck that they could be anywhere but listening to you? Or do you not think about them at all?

Hopefully you are imaging a sea of engaged listeners hanging on your every word. How do you make that vision a reality before, during and after your presentation?

To engage your audience remember these 4 simple ways to keep them NEAR during your next speech.

Notice emotions 

When you walk into the room, notice the emotional vibe.  Tired? Engaged? Bored? Let yourself be open to experience of their emotions. Arrive early and chat with the audience members. It’s a great gauge of how they are feeling

Additionally, the time of day you are speaking impacts energy. If you know that the group you are speaking to just ate lunch or has been listening to presentations all day, their energy is likely to be low. Match their energy and gradually bring their energy level up!


Go beyond making eye contact and examine the body language of the audience. Are they leaning forward? Great they are engaged! Are they falling asleep? Bad they aren’t getting your message! Are they on their smartphones? If you’re speaking to a social media crowd that is great news, they are tweeting your message. If you’re not, they are bored with your message. Examine the crowd and adapt accordingly.


Keep the audience engaged by asking them questions. Get them involved. Plan a reflective activity where they can think about your question and share their responses with their neighbor.

If they look confused, ask them if they are with you. The best way to keep your presentation from going down in flames is to interact with your audience. Keep speaking like a conversation no matter how large the group.

Request feedback

After you finish speaking, ask your audience for feedback. It’s the best way for you to improve as a speaker. Find out what the audience took away? Did it align with your goals for them? What did they love about your talk? What could you improve on?

Make that engaged audience a reality. Engagement starts before your speech and long after the last word drops from your mouth.

How do you keep your audience engaged during a presentation? Share your own experiences and tips below.

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  • Hi Michelle

    These are all great tips, especially the last one.
    It’s something I need to do more often!

    My latest tip and the thing that I’m working on is to take it slow!
    Breathe, relax; rather take conscious breathes between sentences or when appropriate.
    In speeches, it’s less about the words and more about making a connection.

    • Feedback is a goldmine. It makes you feel great and focuses on what you need to work on to better connect.

      I was reading about using punctuation to help you reduce filler words last night, but punctuation can really help you slow down too. Pausing at a period to complete a thought. Taking a breathe at a comma. It’s like a musical score.

  • I need all the help I can get to do public speaking! I’m so glad we are connected and that O will be reading your blog!

    • Thank you Elizabeth! I’m always here to help and hope this tips make your speaking even better. 🙂

  • Engaging them in the conversation is important. I also tend to tell stories. People are so much more interested in stories than straight facts/data.

    • Stories are a wonderful way to engage an audience especially if you are able to ask questions that transport the people into your story. If they start seeing themselves in your presentation, you know you’ve got them engaged.

  • I’d add that making eye contact with people really has an impact.

    I’m always working on speaking better and more extemporaneously ’cause that is always the best, IMO…

    • Don’t they say that the eyes are the the window to the soul? It’s also the key to connection and engagement. I like to keep my presentation conversational too. I rarely write out a whole presentation as a script. I have an outline and know what I want to say then go from there.

  • Hi,
    I realized that I’m not commenting in Comment Posse because I’m connected to you in probably three other tribes :-). So, I have to be more deliberate! Anyway, here I am. I’m doing much, much more “Ask” in my interpersonal course–those small “stop and share” type things. I realize this isn’t typical presentation fare because it is teaching, but it is working out beautifully. Funny… I also tried this in a traditional presentation recently at a college. It worked horribly because the students were disengaged after the first few minutes. The environment was terrible–a student union where there were too many distractions. After my opening activity, I had a rough time keeping them going. None of my usual tricks were working. I realized that I need a classroom environment, even when I’m in a paid speaking situation. No more student unions with people walking around that casual atmosphere–particularly for my topic, which is fun, but more academic (and doesn’t involve the tossing of beach balls like a lot of college speakers :-). Thank you for these reminders! Ellen

    • Hey Ellen! Good to see you here. I too have issues keeping up with those who are in multiple tribes with me. Engagement exercises in difficult environments are very tricky. There are too many shiny objects happening and every one is distracted. If you were Kim Kardashian making out with Kanye, you probably wouldn’t have kept their attention. Some speaking environments make it impossible to engage even if you use all of your tricks!

  • Michelle,

    I know whenever i have done public speaking, asking questions or feedback at the end was essential. It helps a speaker to be more engaged with their audience and learn what they need and don’t need. If we aren’t trying to maximus what we learn from the audience we might as well never speak publicly. They are who will make or break any speaker.

    Aaron Brinker aka DadBlunders

    • Aaron, you are a man after my own heart. I agree with you whole heartedly. We do need to learn from the audience. They are a great source of inspiration and knowledge for our next talk.

  • I like to plan my speeches, but I completely agree with the idea of asking questions! Great points!

    • I think it is about planned spontaneity! Know that you are going to ask the questions and be absolutely open to the responses. If you’ve given a speech a bazillion times, you’ll have heard most of it before. However, audiences always surprise you. Those moments can be gold!

  • In conjunction with noticing emotions, I would add that you can’t be afraid to go off script sometimes. By understanding the vibe of the crowd and adjusting how you’re delivering content, skipping some content, or replacing standard slides with an anecdote on the fly can give your presentation the engagement that we all crave.

    • Hi Eric! Thank you for your comment. I completely agree! It’s so important to ditch the script in order to foster that connection and be engaging!

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  • I haven’t presented in front of a group larger than ~20. But when I do get to that point – and I will – I’ll definitely keep your tips in mind. Especially the point about showing up early to work the crowd and feel their vibe. I know I’ll remember that.

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hi Nikki! Thank you for your comment. 20 is a pretty good size group too. Yes, working the crowd and getting in-touch with their energy is an amazing way to adapt. It’s also a nice way to calm your nerves and make new connections!

  • We’re thinking alike Michelle. I’ve just written a piece about making a rapid connection to your audience, and I’d like to add a link to your blog. All great points for making that vital early bond to the bodies before you. 🙂

    • You know what they say about great minds, right Peter? 🙂 I loved your points about looking at the common values and how the audience relates to each other to make a rapid connection. It really does all begin and end with understanding your audience and knowing what makes them tick. Thank you for linking to this article.

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