7 Ways To Keep Your Audience Engaged (Even after Lunch)

You know that conference session that comes immediately after lunch (when it is always hardest to keep your audience engaged)? Guest blogger, Megan McJennett (full disclosure: she’s also my wife), attended one of those sessions this week and a funny thing happened.  Everyone was engaged. Here’s what she observed:

As I prepared myself for the always-dreaded post-lunch keynote address at the recent School’s Out Washington Bridge Conference, I thought to myself: how is he going to keep me engaged? Is he going to keep me awake? Is he going to keep me from checking my email?

John Medina (of Brain Rules fame) did not disappoint – he is a gifted speaker and the content is riveting.   But about 5 minutes into it, I realized something. As “Mrs. @FlipChartGuy” I have been ruined. My husband’s one-track mind and crusade about how every presentation should be engaging has crept into my own psyche. No longer am I paying attention to content, I am paying attention to style. What is it about John Medina’s talk that was so engaging? What kept me from sneaking a peek at my iPhone?

How Did John Medina Keep His Audience Engaged?

Dr. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist speaking to a crowd of after-school educators. How did he reach us so effectively?

  1. Avoided Jargon: He spoke about neural pathways and neurotransmitters in a way that was very accessible by using nonscience-y vocabulary to introduce the concept.
  2. Set Expectations: He primed his audience at the beginning by letting us know that we were going to walk away with 2 practical ideas we could implement as soon as we got back to our programs.
  3. PowerPoint as Co-facilitator: He used slides as props, not crutches.
  4. Used his voice and body: He raised and lowered his voice, moved purposefully across the stage.
  5. Anecodotes: He told anecdotes to illustrate his points; the stories made the group laugh and get teary. He left space for both.
  6. Repetition: He reiterated his point succinctly before introducing the next point.
  7. Suprise: He kept us guessing (have you ever heard of a developmental molecular biologist refer to truuconfessions.com as a source?)

Sitting through this post-lunch keynote, I have to admit that he made this social worker want to go back to college just to take a few molecular biology classes.

What strategies have you seen that help keep participants engaged after lunch? What do you do to keep YOUR audience engaged?

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