Get an Engaged Audience: Why Your Audience Should Guide the Discussion
What’s the most effective way to get an engaged audience?
How often have you been in a meeting or at a conference and have noticed your fellow audience members drifting off? Maybe they’re having a quick nap, or playing with their phones. Even people who at first appear to be paying attention are disengaged – their eyes glaze over as they let the speaker’s voice run through one ear and out the other.
It’s not easy to maintain such a grip on your audience that their minds never wander at all, particularly if your subject matter is on the dry side. However, here at OpenMeet we have discovered that one simple and effective way to get an engaged audience is to enable them to participate in the event. This is a technique which only becomes more effective the more you use it.
In other words, if at one point in your event you allow your audience to be directly involved, then they will feel highly engaged at that point in time. But if you involve your audience consistently throughout the event, they are more likely to feel highly engaged the entire time.
Help your audience to be participants, not zombies!
We think that the best way to involve your audience throughout an event is to allow them to guide the discussion in the room – this may be to a greater or lesser extent, depending on what’s possible. In a similar way to how teaching someone else can help you to learn something, people at meetings and events who feel personally involved in its direction will be more engaged and will retain more information.
It seems obvious that at any meeting or event, you won’t have an engaged audience if you don’t allow them to voice their opinions. After all, no one likes feeling lectured to! So it’s important to let your audience have their say. You could do this the old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper, but why not take advantage of a technological solution? OpenMeet is not only simple to use – it’s also fun, and can be anonymous if you choose.
For instance, OpenMeet’s Polling feature comes in various types, including free text polls – these let your audience type in an answer, and are particularly useful for asking more open-ended questions and for receiving detailed feedback. Another option is the Questions feature, which lets your audience ask the speaker questions, as well as to comment on and upvote each others’ questions.
One way we often break the ice is to open with a free text poll such as ‘What are you most looking forward to today?’ or ‘How do you feel about today’s event?’ The results can be displayed on the main screen as an automatically-generated multi-coloured word cloud, which updates live as new answers are submitted. This one quick poll introduces the OpenMeet technology while also waking up the audience.
After you’ve asked for their opinions, it’s important that your next step is for the speaker to react to what your audience have said. Some events may have stricter programmes than others, but try to build in an element of flexibility that will allow you to ensure an engaged audience. At the very least, you should include an end-of-session Q&A in which you can answer the ‘burning questions’ in the room.
If there’s one thing you should take away from this blog, it’s that an engaged audience is one that feels listened to and respected, rather than droned at and treated like a faceless crowd.