Audience Interaction – Brilliant Way To Allow Humor To Unfold:
Audience interaction involves:
- Using techniques to get the audience involved
- Making an audience member a funny hero
- Creating an atmosphere of fun, anticipation, and engagement
One of the big challenges that presenters have is how to connect with the audience, keeping them engaged and energized with fun, relevant, value-added interaction techniques. As a professional speaker I sometimes get asked by CEO’s and VIPs who are hiring speakers, “What audience interaction techniques will you use?” You need to be able to answer this question too!
Have you ever been at a training session where the instructor asks a question, but the energy level is low, and the responses are hesitant? Any instructor, presenter or trainer feels uneasy if there’s limited feedback from the audience. A highly interactive session gives the feeling that people are interested in the content and find value in it.
The difference between success and failure is knowledge, creativity, and technique. Engaging the audience and building a sense of excitement and lightheartedness in the room can be extremely powerful.
One of the key considerations when using audience interaction techniques is what will work effectively for your specific audience and your specific speech content. What may work for one audience may seem trivial to another. The level of entertainment versus the learning value is important. Your instructions to the audience for any engagement activity must be crystal clear.
In this lesson I share several techniques for audience engagement. Some are relatively simple and common. You’ve probably seen or used them before. Others are quite the opposite, where I combined creativity and a trace of madness to form beautiful moments with the audience.
- Analyze your audience and event ahead of time to help identify what interaction techniques are suitable.
- Number of members in the audience
- Estimated level of receptiveness to interaction
- Appropriateness of interaction
- Evaluate the interactive techniques to ensure they provide learning value.
- Make sure the interactive questions or rhetorical questions are relevant to the topic and are not being asked just to get interaction. (E.g. do not ask menial questions like, “Who here would like to be rich?” just to get everyone to raise their hand. Ensure it applies to the topic and interaction and requires some relevant thought process.)
- Plan and practice the “set up” and “debrief” ahead of time.
- Set Up: (A.K.A. Instructions for the interaction) If there is more than one step to the interaction, provide step-by-step directions that are visible to You might use a handout, projector screen or a whiteboard. This provides clarity and prevents you possibly frustrating the audience by having to re-explain the instructions.
- Debrief: (A.K.A. Explain the learnings) Determine how will you review the results of the interaction with your audience and connect it to the content. This is the part where you must drive home your point.
- Be cautious when putting people on the spot, as there’s potential for embarrassment. Your goal is to make the volunteer a hero by showcasing their bravery and knowledge. Being a “volunteer” is always preferred to being “volun-told.” Have a “Plan B” you can default to if you don’t get audience participation.
- Consider audience interaction constraints such as the room layout.
- Is there enough space?
- How much time will it take if you need the audience to move away from their seats? How will the noise level be affected?
- How will you regain control of the room?
- Consider other needs such as a microphone for audience interaction.
- Who will “run” around with the mic?
- Will the “mic runner” be trained on how to use the mic effectively?
- How much time will it take to get the mic to the audience member?
- Brainstorm what could go wrong and have a back-up plan.
- To ensure instructions are clear, ask, “Who would like to ask the first question before we begin?” before beginning the interaction. (Asking in this way makes it an “open-ended question” and is more likely to get a response. If there is no response, you can get a chuckle by asking…” Okay, who would like to ask the second question?” This normally lightens up the atmosphere and gets a response!
TECHNIQUE 1 – HERDING WILD ANIMALS:
This audience interaction technique is an example of creativity, craziness, and risk-taking coming together. In the video excerpt I want you to observe that the audience volunteers became the heroes of the interaction. That was my goal!
The video below is not the best quality and was taped over 15 years ago, however I want you to hear and feel the audience excitement, the sense of anticipation, and the hysterical outburst of laughter. Use Close Captions to clearly hear the witticisms that I am ad-libbing. While you watch the video, ponder these important points:
- This audience interaction involved taking a calculated risk. I did not know how it would play out since I was using live creatures.
- I put a lot of thought into how I would reveal the frogs while building nervous tension (study the volunteer faces). Remember that powerful humor can evolve from the buildup of tension followed by a funny reveal. In a previous lesson we talked about “Props.” Note the quantity of props I used in this video, and how I displayed them.
- I ad-libbed some sections of the presentation as they played out. This comes from self-confidence and a wit that has evolved as I have grown as a humorist. In my early years as a speaker, I memorized my content and did not have the confidence to deviate. The ad-lib lines included:
- “Do not poke the frog and simultaneously blow with the straw…it makes a rude noise.”
- “Ladies, watch your cleavage…it is a natural hiding place for frogs.” (This is one of those lines where the appropriateness depends on the audience. As you will hear, I had rapport with the audience and the line went over well.)
This is a series of blog articles and brief videos on “Finding the Funny – Learn the Step-By-Step-Process to Develop and Deliver Humor & Funny Stories & Incorporate into Serious Content.” The blogs are excerpts from my e-learning course (see link on right) which includes:
- Over 16 lessons
- Over 8 hours of video instruction
- Activities and quizzes to complement each lesson
- Downloadable worksheets and templates
- 12 month access to course updates and additions
Please feel free to share with professional speakers, public speakers, trainers…anyone who stands in front of audiences who wants to make them laugh or bring some lightheartedness into serious content. Help me out by “liking,” “subscribing.” and “sharing” on the various social media platforms. To help me out, please make sure you “subscribe” (right-hand column) so you do not miss any of these weekly blog articles. Please feel free to comment on this blog-site and on social-media sites, and share with those who will benefit from them.
Copyright © MMXXI by David R. Hill