07 Dec 2016

Engaging your audience when presenting

An audience that is actively listening or participating whilst presenting is a good sign of a successful presentation. Presentations are THE communication tool that includes a direct human contact to transfer information and thus very powerful when correctly used. More importantly, effectiveness peaks when one feels a presentation has become a discussion where you engage people to participate. In this article we’ll share with you several easy strategies to develop or increase engagement. But before selecting your right strategy, keep in mind the following things.

1. Don’t forget your goal

Reflecting on your meeting goals should always be done before brainstorming on how to get your audience to participate. There are a lot of different situations that require different types of actions: informing, inspiring, making decisions, getting buy-in, etc. Thus, the impact needed will influence your engagement strategies. For example, in a typical sales meeting the goal is to convince a client. Trying to inspire the decision-maker with fun images won’t get you where you want. Instead, you want to use storytelling that relates to them and gets their attention, ask them open-ended questions to get their feedback and show them live demos. On the contrary, in a situation of welcoming new employees at your company, it’s all about fun images to touch their emotions, storytelling to demonstrate other’s success and maybe even quizzes to test their understanding.

2. Create an open environment

Involving the audience in a more discussion-like situation will change a passive situation into an active one and thus people become more engaged and interested. In some meetings people start talking and it becomes a challenge to stop them in order to cover all your material. In other situations, it is about “waking them up”. Effectively working in group seems to be all about psychological safety. The feeling that you can add comments, feedback, questions to a group without feeling judged, embarrassed or rejected. As a presenter it is your job to ensure this effectiveness. In order for engagement techniques to work, ensure you create this open environment: show you are listening, repeat questions to show that each of them is important to the group and address concerns as a group problem that should be solved.

3. Engagement strategies

  • Tell your story: Storytelling helps you to maintain people’s audience from start to end by making them the “hero” of your meeting or presentation. Would you rather hire the person that has communicated his own success for the past 30min or the person that shows you how he can help you become successful?! Sales presentations and pitch presentations are all about your audience and helping them get somewhere. A general presentation journey would thus surprising them with a problem leading to a proposed solution. But also sharing the content in a more emotional and human view, will help people in deciding without just focussing on black and white facts.
  • Interact with audience: Asking questions to your audience is the easiest strategy to ensure a discussion and thus engagement. In small groups it’s easy to get everyone’s opinion, in bigger groups, make sure you hear out everyone if needed. Open-ended questions are a good strategy to make them talk longer, closed-questions are good to get a quick overview of your group’s opinion without going in depth. Do make sure that your questions relate to your goal.
  • Show visuals: An image tells more than a thousand words. By having images you prevent people from getting bored by monotone pages and instantly increase the perceived quality of your presentation. Visuals can also help to ask questions when opening a topic or specific questions when explaining a concept.  Finally visuals are powerful to evoking emotions like motivating or inspiring people.
  • Use humor: Humor is a powerful way to connect to people. But when doing so, best is to use professional humor, related to your theme. Don’t overuse it neither and ensure that you are not using humor about a person or a group of people. This could be perceived as hurtful by some and even unprofessional.

In conclusion, engage your audience easily

Simple techniques can be applied to a presentation in order to engage your audience. Use the power of human contact to reach your meeting objectives and ensure a strong meeting context where people feel “safe” to communicate. A cornerstone to reach presentation engagement is storytelling. Going on a journey with your audience, ensuring they feel there is something in it for them and allowing an emotional touch. Also other techniques like asking questions and feedback, showing visuals and using humor can increase the engagement level.


At CVC we have chosen to make business presentations our core… or well maybe they chose us. It has become a calling, a passion to transform people’s knowledge and attitude towards them. That’s why we created the CVC Approach, a three-step approach focused on industry’s best practices, expertise that helps create the real results companies want and create an excellent return on investment. Whether it’s about training people or helping set up your next sales pitch. Check out our services or contact us with questions on how we can help.


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