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Blog, Connection, Engagement

Audience activities during presentation

In ancient Greece – the word catharsis was used for the emotional bond between actor and audience. Wouldn’t one say that when it comes to presenting nowadays, catharsis didn’t evolve that much? We still look for ideas and activities during presentation to thrive engagement. So yes, in that sense not much has changed. But it has been only in recent years that we transformed from a 1.0 to a 2.0 society; The stage doesn’t only belong to actors, but also to the audience.

They aren’t any longer spectators only, they are also contributors. And this explains the importance of audience activities during presentation. Neuroscientists at Harvard found that talking about ourselves gives similar satisfying signals as money and food give us. Games to play, activities whereby attendees share personal experiences; it all contributes to an interactive experience. Not only that, when we’re able to foster the exchange of experiences and knowledge, then we also develop ourselves as individuals and organizations. So let’s zoom in on a number of audience participation ideas:

  • Games. Fun elements during your meeting;
  • Exercises. Creative formats that support knowledge and experience exchange;
  • Other activities. Other forms of audience activities during your presentation.

Audience participation ideas

Depending on the theme of your presentation, how formal or informal the setting is and how much time you have, there are several ideas out there to apply during your next presentation. Ask yourself during your preparation to what extend you still like to spend time on your PowerPoint, or whether you’d rather prepare for strong engagement activities?

  • Games | Cross the Line. “Cross the line” is a format known from “Challenge Day” whereby attendees are asked to stand, based on their answer [yes/no] on a question, either left or right from the room. With it differences are made visible and in the end sensible too. As such it can be one of the engagement games that have a big impact; either in a fun way or in a serious way. It will evoke laughter, recognition, surprise and a tear every now and then.
  • Ideas for questions are. “Who wanted to become a doctor when you were little?”, “Who was ever bullied at work?” or “Who prefers a city trip over a beach holiday?”. Based on your topic, you formulate your own questions. Serious or light. The audience generates the content of your session. Full participation is guaranteed: no one can stay in the middle. Your role is to facilitate the dialogue, ask questions and steer the conversation towards the goals of your meeting. Because of everyone’s participation and the physical movement, you’ll for sure end up with a conversation that will stick to people’s mind.

  • Activities. There are many audience activities to think of when it comes to letting your audience speak up. In these three activities you’ll find back elements that will make your session personal allowing everyone to share their thoughts:
    1. Bring it on. Ask your attendees in advance to bring a small personal item. During your session you let everyone [with a small group] elaborate on why the item is important to them. Alternatively you can do the same by asking your audience to bring a song along. This is a perfect activity to facilitate personal introductions within a group [e.g. upon the start of a new course].
    2. Fishbowl Discussion. In a fishbowl discussion there are two groups. One forms an outer circle and one group is seated in the middle. Only those located in the middle are allowed to talk. In the inner circle there’s always a free seat available. If someone from the outer circle likes to join, then the free seat is his/hers and somebody else should make space. You’ll therefore find that everyone’s contribution is very conscious and therefore often valuable. Everyone realizes that time spend in the inner circle is valuable: questions and contributions are to the point and well-thought over. Reflections from the outer circle can be send in digitally and used for a plenary feedback session straight after the Fishbowl Discussion.
    3. The Talking Stick. The talking stick is an old Native American custom of talking. Upon the start of this activity, everyone should agree that whoever has the talking stick, is allowed to talk without interruption. It’s similar to the Fishbowl Discussion, but with the talking stick it’s not a group, but an individual talking. The talking stick can be any item, as long as it is neutral and not related to anyone in the group. Each time somebody is done talking, the talking stick should be put back in the midst of the group [and should not be handed over to somebody]. It maybe sounds simple, but in practice this is a powerful method of creating deep communication and understanding.

  • Exercises. Next to games and other activities, these exercises also contribute to a lively presentation!
    1. Knowledge Quiz. Before and straight after your presentation you can quiz your audience about your topic through Sendsteps Audience Response System. Be it solar energy, hotel management or 20th century art; formulate interesting multiple choice questions. Via Sendsteps you can add questions to your PowerPoint slide and from there the audience can respond. Track who replied what, plus see the score and announce a winner. All that your audience needs is a smartphone and everyone is ready to go!
    2. Set The Agenda. In your event program, you can leave part of the program blank. In it you eventually let your audience decide what to discuss. Upon the start of your session you let your audience form small groups. Give them a relevant question and use the output [which they can send in via Sendsteps] for a plenary discussion during your blank program item. From the output you can formulate statements that can result in a lively ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ debate. Or alternatively invite adhoc a speaker to elaborate on the output. If you’re able to be this flexible, you’ll amaze your crowd with tailoring exclusively to their needs!

Remember those Harvard scientists? Now you have concrete tools that will help you to setup an engaging presentation that will trigger the same effect as money and food; an audience that can talk about itself will easily experience satisfaction. A win-win situation for everyone!