How to keep an audience engaged during a presentation


How to keep an audience engaged during a presentation

Did you ever think of your presentation as a first time date? Imagine – it’s really not that different. Upfront you are busy with what to wear, what to say and especially what not to say. You don’t need an awful lot of dating experience to know that in the end a date always goes different than expected. But nevertheless, we often feel we can never do without a proper mental preparation.

It requires a similar approach to keep an audience engaged during a presentation. And to steal their hearts. When you aim for an interactive and inspiring presentation, then attention to many details is needed. In this article we explain you more on how to keep audience engaged during presentation.

We do so based on these questions – how to engage your audience:

  • … during public speaking assessments?
  • … through the use of games?
  • … through the use of PowerPoint during presentation?
  • … by facilitating fulll audience participation during presentations?

How to engage an audience in public speaking

Every speaker is different, each story carries a different energy and each time an audience changes; that is in size, in experience and in culture. Many ingredients influence the course of your public speaking performance.

Yet, here are some basics that are universal and yet powerful to be aware of:

  • Start personal. Make the stage and the vibe yours. Share something personal and from there build the bridge to your theme. By doing so, you relate to your personal drive and motivation and you give context to your story. This makes it easier for an audience to engage with your topic and to understand the bigger picture.
  • Know your audience.When in a restaurant with your date – you don’t start talking out of the blue. By knowing the other, it helps to find the right tone, to underline similar shared experiences and to create mutual understanding. Ask a few questions to individual attendees before starting your presentation. Or conduct a short pre-event survey and use the input for your presentation. People often aren’t interested in speeches, but they do like an inspiring conversation instead.
  • Treat time as precious. When given a time slot of 30 minutes – use 25. No matter how interesting your presentation is, spare time is often considered as a little present. But how to use time in other valuable ways? From a more strategic angle you can use time to underline your message; Take a 3-8 seconds pause before telling the really important part. Even the worst smartphone addicts will pay attention now. It might feel awkward in the beginning, but then notice the impact, you’ll get the hang of it!

Games to engage audience during presentation

A game element during a presentation requires that you’re in tune with the vibe of your event. A game can make or break it. The more serious the topic, the less inviting it is to go ‘out-of-the-box’, let alone to get funny. Then again, if you know how to introduce it with confidence and flair, then you might get your crowd on the edge of their chairs!

  • Games to engage an audience. The most popular games to play are often quizzes. Through the use of audience response systems [like Sendsteps], you can easily setup a digital quiz. As such you can quickly see the scores are and there’s no unclarity about the winner. Add a timer for each question and a little background music to get the quiz buzz going!

    As for the quiz itself: relate the multiple choice questions to trivia to keep it light or make it more interesting and dive into your subject. Add a little product placement [clever when sponsors are involved] and the winner leaves the venue with a nice price from the organization or the sponsor!

  • Fun ways to engage an audience. Next to a quiz, there are other ways to keep people’s attention during presentation and meetings. Here are some ideas and fun ways (to engage):
    1. Pre-recorded video interview. Before your event, script an interview and then record it with yourself and imitate someone popular or interview somebody else. When live on stage, show the video and ask the scripted questions and let the person on the video reply. Show your creative side and imagine how hilarious this can turn out!
    2. Build a Wordcloud. Through the use of an audience response system you can start building a live wordcloud with your audience. Ask for everyone’s participation and let attendees send in a one-word reply to a fun question. “What did you want to become when you were 10 years old?”, “Who would you like to spend a coffee with?”.
    3. Play Live Music. Surprisingly music is not often an ingredient of a corporate event, or part of a presentation. But why not? It’s a nice neutralizer in the midst of all the content shared. And it opens the mind for any of your ideas shared in your upcoming presentation.
  • Creative activities to engage an audience. Apart from single event ingredients, like a word cloud or a quiz, you can also work with a sidekick. A person who constantly monitors the sentiment within the audience. As attendees cast votes, send in remarks or ask questions [through their smartphone]; the sidekick is the first person to see all of that coming in. On scripted or spontaneous moments, he puts forward the most intriguing contributions.

    Not only does it help the chairman for orchestrating the audience response better, it also adds a nice dynamic throughout the event program. Attendees feel heard, can respond with honest thoughts and you’ll be sure that based on your audience input that you’ll get to the core. The role of sidekick can be executed by a professional sidekick or by somebody from the own organization. Be aware that this requires good skills in terms of listening and simultaneously scanning large volumes of incoming content, plus presenting skills for bringing the content forward lively and clear.

How to engage audience in powerpoint presentation

As much as PowerPoint can have a negative connotation, it still is the most used presentation tool worldwide. Some people can lose themselves in the preparations, some feel safer using it and others pull of a great performance. So how to come up with a presentation that will engage your audience and foster participation?

Here are some ideas to play with:

  • Less is more. Challenge yourself and write as little as possible on your slides. Or simply skip all text and make use of images instead. Spend your time on browsing powerful images, rather than on formulating clever texts. Are you planning on using video? Make sure to test it before and in the venue itself again!
  • Ask for feedback. Although a presentation itself can be rehearsed with somebody giving you feedback, this might be a time consuming project for you or at least the other. Still, if you have the chance – why not! But spreading your PowerPoint around with a few of your colleagues or peers: that’s an easy task with almost always some valuable input!
  • Ask for feedback. Although a presentation itself can be rehearsed with somebody giving you feedback, this might be a time consuming project for you or at least the other. Still, if you have the chance – why not! But spreading your PowerPoint around with a few of your colleagues or peers: that’s an easy task with almost always some valuable input!

Make a presentation interactive

With help of Sendsteps audience response system you’ll bring your presentation to a new level: an interactive one!

  • How to make presentation interactive? The quickest and best way to use Sendsteps is to add a number of multiple choice questions. Use it as an icebreaker, or test your crowd’s knowledge or make an audience profile based on a number of profiling questions.

    Or do you dare to let attendees respond openly through their smartphone? Enable the audience to voice their opinion, to raise questions and to share ideas. Either allow all responses directly on the presentation screen, or filter messages through your tablet or smartphone and from there assign a selection to the screen. The mix of open content and polling will result in a lively session! Click here to watch a short tutorial and get yourself going!

  • Interactive presentation ideas for college? How to get a conversation going in larger classes? For interactive college ideas you’ll quickly notice how Sendsteps can help you mobilizing an entire class. Without singling out any of your students – even not the quiet ones.

    Use the open question “what do you expect from today’s course?”, let students come up with associations on a theme and put it in a live wordcloud, play a quiz based on the discussed content or let one of the students be sidekick on behalf of the class. Dare to experiment and to design your class slightly different. With it you’ll see that there’s more to asking “are there any other questions”!

We’re curious to hear more about your upcoming presentation! Reach out and let us think along with you – we like to see you shine on stage and steel the audience their hearts!


Engage your audience through interactive debates!


How to engage an audience: organize an interactive debate!


There are many more methods to engage your audience then only the good old “Q&A” sessions. The Dutch Contactlens Congress [NCC] is a living proof of this! Every other year 1500 optometric professionals gather from all over Europe. During the congress, attendees reflect on the latest trends and developments with regards to contactlenses.
Sendsteps contributed in several ways to improve the audience interaction. Indeed, by supporting Q&A sessions, evaluating the sessions through surveys and by enliven presentations with help of multiple choice questions. However, the ‘interactive debates’ were truly the best way to engage an audience!

Interactive Debates: the audience favorite!

The NCC wanted to use “debates”, as a mean to further develop a shared vision on the developments within the industry. Here’s how it went:

  • After several rounds of short debates, a small number of debaters entered the debate arena for the final round;
  • Before a debate took place, the audience decided which specific statement should be discussed between two debaters [A, B or C]. The audience could vote through Sendsteps;
  • Based on the specific outcome, one debater was asked to debate “in favor” of the statement. The other debater would debate “against” the statement;

As the debate took place, the audience could vote for who of the debaters got most of their trust. The bar chart behind the speakers would change as the audience casted their votes. The more trust earned, the brighter the lights would turn green. Or red, if trust was lacking! As such the debaters were challenged to adapt their reasoning and tone of voice throughout the course of the debate in order to win the vote of the audience.

True audience heroes

Through this way of debating, the debates not only became very lively; but almost as in Roman times [where the audience was entertained with bread and circuses], the finalists were received as true heroes during breaks and networking opportunities. And the audience? They not only enjoyed the entertainment, but also got a great chance to further develop their vision!

Your next interactive debate?

Use Sendsteps to facilitate a debate 2.0! Setup an interactive PowerPoint session and add statements to your slideshow. Formulate statements that will spark a lively discussion. Challenge your debaters, entertain your audience and help to further sharpen opinions. Good luck!


Interactive presentation ideas


Interactive presentation ideas

Just like you serve specific wine with a type of dish, you also need to carefully select a specific interactive method with your type of meeting. Get clear for yourself: What is the setting in which you like interaction to take place? ‘Games’ don’t contribute to board room sessions, and a fun ‘brainstorm’ isn’t helpful for students who are close to their theory exam.

Define the type of meeting you’re hosting. What are the topics you’d like to cover, what is the profile of the audience and which questions need to be answered?

We categorized three general occasions for interactive presentations:

From here you can choose an interactive method that matches best your presentation.

Use an interactive presentation: to teach something

Edgar Dale [1900 – 1985] was a U.S. educationist who developed the famous “Cone of Experience”. He states that we remember 20% of what we hear, 50% of what we see and hear and 70% of what we discuss with others. It makes sense therefore to apply as much as possible interaction:


Method | User scenario’s

Think of scenarios in relation to your topics. The more real-life, the stronger the audience can relate to them. Either describe the scenario yourself, or find a matching online video. Halfway the scenario, you can stop your story or video. From there involve your audience;

  • Give your audience a think break of a minute.
  • Present the answer options that describes best the continuation of the scenario
  • Let the class discuss the answer options
  • Let attendees cast their vote

Edgar Dale would have been proud of you!


Method | A forced debate

Play with different points of view, get creative with new ideas and let attendees defend the opposite side of the story;

  • Present a statement on which the audience can vote ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’
  • Let students cast an identified vote; you now know who replied what.
  • Switch roles based on the outcome; opponents become advocates and vice versa.
  • Line up both groups and let each attendee reply once, to make sure that all students on both sides can engage the issue.

After the debate, you can let the audience vote again and see how opinions have shifted!

Use an interactive presentation: to communicate change

No matter how big of a change you will communicate, in a group it always causes dynamics. With a clever interaction method in place, you can steer more than you would have expected.


Method | An open floor

Allow employees to send in questions throughout the course of your announcements. Anonymous responses are the best responses; otherwise you’ll end up with socially acceptable replies.

  • Allow anonymous feedback throughout your presentation, but don’t share it yet on the presentation screen.
  • Go through the replies after your presentation, but still during the session;
  • Prepare an overall reply to the questions and share it at the end of your session
  • For all questions that cannot be answered, indicate as concrete as possible how and when you’ll get back to it

Involve communication professionals in the formulation of your answers. The more complex the matter, the better such an investment is.


Method | Pre-event questioning

Rather than waiting until ‘the very moment’, it is wise to already get a clue of the sentiment before the actual meeting takes place.

  • Setup and send out a pre-event survey. A survey that your audience can fill out anonymous.
  • Use the input before the event takes place; finetune your story and brief other speakers.
  • Give the attendees the feeling of being heard from the very first minute.

Did you ever think of compiling a wordcloud from the pre-event survey responses, that can be shown upon entering the venue on the day of the event?

Use an interactive presentation: to discuss an issue

For those interactive presentations, where at the end, you really like to have very concrete outcome, the following ideas might help you:


Method | Audience profiling

Who is in my audience? Formulate questions with which you can define a profile of the audience.

  • Ask multiple choice questions about people’s background, professional activities and interests.
  • Now that the profile is clear to you and the audience, start your actual interactive presentation.
  • Test people’s views on your topics with multiple choice questions and relate to the profiles defined earlier. E.g. from the 80% people who agreed, 20% have a management position and 60% have an executive position.

The clearer the context, the more sense the audience feedback makes.


Method | Free schedule

Rather than scheduling your program from A till Z, leaves some space for spontaneous input.

  • Upon the start of your interactive session, ask your attendees to send in themes that they like to discuss later in the program.
  • Make a shortlist of the outcome and schedule discussion time for the second part of your event program.

Your audience has now become the architect of their own event. You might even be able to arrange a speaker who can relate to the open space subject. If so, you’ll for sure leave a lasting impression!

We hope that any of these interactive presentation ideas inspired you. But we have more to share with you – check out any of these best practices on audience interaction. Or simply give us a call or send us an e-mail – we love to hear from you!


Do you have a racing heart and sweaty palms when you are standing in front of a large audience?


Do you feel that you are not confident enough to step onto the stage? Chances are you would be described as an introvert. There is no need to worry. Famous introverts like Audrey Hepburn, Emma Watson, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi and Warren Buffett got used to being in the public eye despite their shyness.

There is a common belief that extroverts are the best presenters. They might have character traits which make easier to be in the spotlight. Otherwise, creating a compelling presentation and delivering a message smoothly is not impossible for introverts either. Introverts’ strengths are taking the time for preparation and focusing deeply on one subject. Being prepared gives you confidence to tackle any presentation-related fear. We collected useful tips to turn any introvert into the best presenter.


This post is written by Szandra Karacsony and Alexander van Swinderen. We both work for Sendsteps.

Sendsteps makes free PPT software that allows your audience to vote and send messages live on your slides using their phone. Want to give it a try?

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