Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Talk the talk
Talk the talk

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

3.4 Interacting with your audience

Described image
Figure 3

In the previous sections you’ve looked at the age, cultural background and gender of your audience. You also need to consider their expectations and how to keep them engaged in your talk.

Engage the audience

One feature of effective presentations is that they are interesting and they engage the audience. A skilled speaker can attract people’s attention and make a subject appealing by demonstrating its relevance to them, by structuring their talk clearly and, where appropriate, by using visual and audio aids effectively.

Create an impact

Skilled speakers can also create an impact through the quality of their voice, the use of body language and the creation of a sense of connection, or rapport, with their audience.

Know your audience

If you can, it is important to find out about audience expectations and their reasons for coming to your talk. In doing so, you will be prepared for unexpected questions and preconceived ideas some of your listeners might have. It’s also important to have some ideas of an audience’s motivation and the extent to which their attendance is voluntary. This will dramatically affect the way you should deliver the talk, as well as the level of audience engagement and the likelihood of meaningful questions at the end.

Audiences may already know you and this can lead to expectations – both high and low. An audience may also come with ideas about you based on information they’ve picked up prior to your talk. A speaker needs to think about strategies that will meet positive expectations and counter negative ones. Whatever your image, whether you come across as a New Age guru, a suited corporate manager or an eccentric academic, beware of straying beyond your own fundamental personality or you may appear false, manipulative or insincere.

Know the setting

The size of the audience will dictate to some extent the level of intimacy that can be produced. A small crowd might allow for a lot of flexibility, while a large crowd might require a speaker to be formal and stay on track. With experience, you can get a feeling from an audience of any size but what may change is the ability to interact, with questions such as, ‘raise your hand if…’, or similar.

The type of occasion and where it takes place will dictate the level of formality and the angle from which a speaker approaches a subject. A speech given in the evening may require a different energy from one given first thing in the morning. Some occasions may be solemn, others up-beat.

Finally, a speaker needs to look at the room itself. How comfortable are the chairs? How good is the lighting? Does it feel too hot or too cold? These are important factors when it comes to judging how long an audience will be comfortable for. It is also very important to check the equipment in the room and make sure that you have all the necessary audio and visual materials to deliver your talk.