Glazed Is Good for Doughnuts, Not Audiences

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Recently, I received an email from an executive at a medical services company who needed training for her staff who provide technology training to internal customers:

"My team already has basic presentation skills. I’m looking for you to provide something that will help experienced speakers develop delivery skills so that our presentations are more poised, smoother, engaging and interactive. I want them to be more interactive so we can engage the audience. Right now during our training sessions, people's eyes tend to glaze over."

Glazed is good for doughnuts, but not audiences. Instead of glazed eyes, you want to see an engaged audience – which means they ask questions, offer productive comments and answer the questions you ask. And a more engaged audience means they are more likely to understand and retain whatever you are teaching them.

Here are 5 things you can do to engage the audience during a training session or presentation:

1. Be more animated than usual. Make sure your non-verbals (voice, eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture and movement) convey energy and enthusiasm.

2. When you ask questions, pause to give the audience a chance to answer. If you get uncomfortable with the silence and quickly jump in with your own answer, you will condition the audience not to answer since they will expect you to answer your own questions.

3. Use stories. Think of examples, case studies and real stories that are relevant to your topic. Then practice delivering them for timing and maximum impact.

4. Build in exercises that allow participants to practice what you're teaching. Figure out the purpose for each exercise and how you will facilitate them. Practice saying the instructions out loud so they are clear and succinct.

5. When you sense a lull in the energy, have the participants talk to each other. For example, ask them to turn to the person next to them and share one helpful thing they've learned so far.

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