Using Modern Audience Interaction Tools In Your Next Speech

Speakers need to find ways to get instant feedback from their audience
Speakers need to find ways to get instant feedback from their audience
Image Credit: Tobias Toft

All to often when we are giving a speech, we do it in what is called the “classic style”. This means that we stand on a stage and we speak to our audience and they listen to us because of the importance of public speaking. This is a one-directional monologue. However, times are changing. We are no longer limited to having to give our speeches in this way. Our audiences want more interaction with us during our speech. As speakers we need to understand what new tools are available so that we can start to work them into our next speech.

How We Have Been Interacting With Our Audience

In order to understand how we can do a better job of interacting with our audience, we first have to take a careful look at how we are going about doing this today. What we need to understand is that the roles of speakers and the audience are changing. The way that things used to be, the speaker was viewed as being the “expert in the room”. This is starting to change. Now speakers are becoming more of a facilitator of learning.

Our job is becoming to find ways to pull the best ideas from our audience. A new way to think of ourselves is not as being the sage who is on stage, but rather the guide who is on the side. As speakers we need to realize that there may be more wisdom in front of us than there is in front of your audience. As speakers we need to understand that the really good interaction comes when there is the right combination of the inspiration that comes from the speaker along with the collective knowledge of the audience.

The challenge that we face as a speaker is that the standard ways that we have been using to interact with our audience don’t work all that well. Asking an audience to raise their hands or to shout out an answer to a question that you’ve asked doesn’t do a good job of communicating the collective knowledge of your audience. We need to realize that great interaction with an audience comes when you can connect your wisdom with their wisdom in order to create something that is unique for that moment in time.

How We Can Start To Interact With Our Audience

If we can acknowledge that the way that we have been interacting with our audience in the past has not been ideal, then what we need to be doing is looking for ways to do a better job of this. What we need to be looking for are ways to allow our audience to have their voices heard during our presentation.

One way to make this happen is to use polling. Polling is a voting technique that is very similar to the “show of hands” system that we use today. This will give a live result of the audience’s reactions to a given set of choices. This technique is very powerful in part because it is anonymous. When you use it, you can allow your audience to vote on or respond to a question that you have asked them.

Word clouds are a powerful way to show your audience what everyone is thinking. When you use this technique, your audience members send their own input to a question and a word cloud will be automatically created based on their answers. The way that this works is that the more times that a word is mentioned, the bigger that word gets in the word cloud. The reason that this is such a powerful tool is that you are able to create both breath and depth at the same time. Individual inputs will be heard while at the same time you’ll be able to see what the audience as a whole thinks.

Another approach is called upvoting. When you use this technique, your audience will answer questions that you have asked using an app that runs on their phone or tablet. The members of your audience who have access to the app will see the questions and then they will “up-vote” on them. The result of doing this is that you as the speaker will see only the questions that have a high focus and value to your audience.

A very popular thing to do these days is to provide a hashtag (#) that can be associated with your speech. When you do this, it provides your audience with a means by which to share their thoughts in real time. What they say can then be seen by everyone who is watching your specific hashtag. This works very well when you use it in conjunction with social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What All Of This Means For You

We live in modern times and things are changing. As speakers we are moving from standing on a stage and broadcasting what we know to the audience and instead are looking for ways to make our speeches more interactive so that we can share the benefits of public speaking. Our old ways of getting input from our audience has never worked all that well. However, now there are new ways that work much better, It is our responsibility to find ways to incorporate these new ways into our next interactive speech.

We can use polling to collect input from our audience. This is a modern replacement for the “show of hands” technique, Word clouds are a powerful technique that will allow every voice to be heard while showing us which words are the most important to our audience. When we allow our audience to upvote, they can show us which questions are the most important to them. Finally, hashtags allow us to harness the power of social media and get real-time feedback from our audience.

The goal of any speech that we give is to find ways to better connect with our audience. If we can interact with them during our speech, then they will be left with a sense of ownership of the speech. This will allow them to more closely follow what we are saying and will boost our chances of changing their lives with our speech. The next time that you give a speech, take a look and see if you can start to use some of these new interactive techniques.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that there might be times that interacting with the audience could become distracting from the message that you are trying to deliver?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How lucky we all are. We get to live in these modern times with all of the advantages that technology can bring to us. Yes, giving a speech is still a difficult thing for any of us to do. However, it turns out that if we’re willing to invite some technology to our next speech we can make the whole process a great deal easier and do a better job of sharing the importance of public speaking. I’m sorry to have to tell you that you are the one who is still going to have to stand up there in front of the audience and deliver a speech. However, there just might be ways to better prepare you to do that and to provide you with some assistance while you are up there.