Whether you’re taking the stage for a keynote presentation or gathering for your weekly standup meeting, you compete with dozens of distractions. If you don’t engage with your audience within the first few minutes you’ll likely lose them for the entire business meeting.
Audience engagement is an integral part of business meetings and presentations. If you fail to connect with that audience, you may be losing out on potential business opportunities. Even worse, all that wasted time can cost your company big bucks. That said, here are five ways you can keep your audience engaged during a business meeting.
Be Human, Be Authentic.
The most important thing you need to remember about any presentation is that you need to be authentic. You’ve put yourself in a position to lead a meeting likely due to your successes. However, success does not necessarily equal superiority. You need to connect with your audience and you need to be authentic.
Don’t be afraid to share stories about your failures or some lessons you’ve learned in the past. If you show a bit of vulnerability through a personal story, people will be able to connect with you. Nobody is perfect. If you come off as arrogant in a business meeting, you’ll surely have difficulty engaging your audience.
I don’t literally mean speak the same language as your audience, but you need to communicate clearly. Using fancy words and jargon may sound good to you, but if your audience doesn’t pick up on what you’re saying you might as well be speaking Mandarin.
In addition to picking the right language, you also need to control your pace. Always remember to slow down your speech and fully enunciate every word. Naturally, we tend to speak quickly when we present. You need to make a conscious effort to speak slowly and clearly.
One of the most effective ways to engage your audience is to be humorous. Typically when people gather for a business meeting, the default tone is quite serious. To lighten the mood, crack a few jokes here and there. I always try to open the discussion with a joke or funny comment when hosting a meeting. That way, people are relaxed and engaged from the very beginning.
Avoid Handouts During the Meetings.
One train of thought is that providing handouts during the meeting will increase audience engagement. It will, but in the wrong places. When you give give handouts your audience will immediately direct their attention to the handout. Sometimes they’ll follow along, but more often than not their eyes will wander and pay attention to the paper in front of them rather than yourself.
Instead, you should always save handouts for the end of the meeting, so your team can use it as a recap. During the meeting, try to use whiteboards or screens to present any material. That way, everyone’s eyes and ears are focused on you.
Last but not least, you should always try to encourage participation from your audience. Instead of solely speaking to your audience, you should create a dialogue amongst the group. Ask questions and organize group discussions to gather constructive feedback. The more your audience participates, the more engaged they will be. It’s that simple.
Attention spans are becoming increasingly shorter. In a business meeting, you only have a few minutes to captivate your audience before they’re daydreaming. Before you host your next meeting, make sure you follow the five tips above so your audience stays engaged.
Renzo Costarella is an entrepreneur, avid learner, and startup enthusiast currently living in Silicon Valley. He consults for several startups in the Bay Area and is pursuing a few ideas of his own.