Public Speaking – How to make your speech MORE INTERACTIVE

This is an AI generated transcript so please forgive any errors and spelling mistakes. 

How do you make your talks more engaging and more interactive? That’s what we’re going to look at today.

First hi, I’m Shola. I’m a speaking coach and a professional speaker based in London. I have clients around the world and I work with organisations and also with individuals.

A few weeks ago, I was up in Scotland working with a client and running a class for a group of people and we talked about the idea of being more interactive when you speak. Now, there are a bunch of different ways to be more interactive. You can have exercises where you ask the audience to get into groups or pairs and speak amongst themselves and report back. You could have a flip chart and ask people to put their hands up. You can even get people texting in and doing live polls.

Public Speaking – get the audience involved throughout your presentation

But if you have a topic which is perhaps quite serious, quite formal, may be seen by some as being quite dry and it doesn’t really lend itself to asking the audience to get into groups and chat to each other, what’s an easy way that you can use to get people involved interacting throughout?

One of the benefits of getting people involved is first of all it just the fact that you want them to be involved in your talk, right? You don’t want them to be checked out, snoozing, reading the paper, looking at their phone, wondering what they’re having for dinner that night. You want them to be there with you in the room listening to every word so you don’t want them to be checked out.

You also want to gauge their response to your content. One wonderful benefit of interactivity is the fact that you don’t have to wait right to the end of your presentation to hear whether the audience likes it or not. Or whether they it hit the mark with your audience. There are a bunch of different reasons why we should be more interactive.

Public Speaking – plan the Q&As strategically

If you have a very formal presentation or it’s quite a tough topic with a tough audience, who maybe won’t be loose enough to chat to each other etc during the talk, then a simple way of making more interactive is by having your Q&A session spaced throughout the course of the presentation.

What that means is that every time you’ve you share a chunk of information or a module of your talk you can say to the audience “do you have any questions about what I just shared with you?”. The benefit of doing that is, not only that you are not having to wait until the very end to hear the questions, but also that if things aren’t quite right or if it’s not pitched in the right way to the audience then you are alerted to that early on in your presentation.

Another benefit of having questions throughout is that some people may have a question for you in minute one a minute five of your presentation. If you make them wait until the Q&A you might find that their enthusiasm to ask a question their desire to speak up it just fizzes out right by the end. They just lost interest, they got frustrated. They wanted to ask early on, by the end they just can’t be bothered. So you avoid that situation happening.

Public Speaking – set the scene by announcing the Q&A format early

In addition, even if it’s a very formal topic people are used to Q&A’s. So much more than they’re used to sharing with the partner or getting into groups. The idea of having the Q&A throughout the talk isn’t going to throw them off, or make them feel that this is very avant-garde, or throwing them out of their comfort zone. I suggest that the next time you are presenting and you’ve got perhaps quite dense material or it’s a very formal situation but you want to make your talk interactive.

At the beginning, once you’ve introduced the topic and you’re about to launch into the content share with the audience “in today’s talk I am going to have the Q&A spaced throughout the presentation, if you have a question at any point then don’t worry because every 10, 15, 20 minutes or so I will be pausing to take questions”. So people are alerted to the fact that they can ask questions all the way through. Otherwise if you spring it on them partly through that they can ask questions now they may not be ready.

Another way you can do it, is take questions as they come up. I quite enjoy doing it that way because it makes for a more lively session. But if you know that you’ve rehearsed your content and it could throw you off if someone’s playing their hand up asking questions all the way through, then as I say, you can have certain moments which are premeditated if you like or prepared for, where you pause, you ask the questions and then you carry on. You deliver the next block of content or the next module of your speech, and then you ask for questions again.

Public Speaking – there are many benefits to making your speech interactive

I’ve talked about the benefits of interactivity before. What you will typically find is even if you have questions throughout the talk by the time you get to the end and you have a full-blooded Q&A session, if you want to include one, you’ll find that people are much more lively. They’re much more participative and they’re feeling like they are part of the presentation. So, all the way through they are helping to shift the course of the presentation with their questions.

And, of course, they feel much more engaged a much more a part of it and therefore they’re probably going to enjoy it more. They are probably going to have more questions and be more stimulated by the time you get to the actual Q&A at the end. You’ll probably get more positive comments and positive feedback because you’re encouraging the audience to take part, to share, to get involved. And the logical step from that after that is for them to get involved by praising you or perhaps giving you a good testimonial.

Another excellent thing about having questions throughout is that if the event organiser – or whoever brought you in, say a stakeholder – is in the room, they get to see first-hand how effective your talk has been and how engaged the audience has been. And that’s only a good thing because maybe they will recommend you to other organizations that need a speaker. Or perhaps they’ll talk to your boss and say “yes, that was really great”. It just means there’s more kudos for you so all in all I think it’s a great thing to have questions throughout the presentation in lieu of some other kind of interactivity.

Give it a try. Report back. Contact me on LinkedIn, let me know how it goes. Look forward to hearing from you and I hope that’s a helpful suggestion.

Take care, bye.


P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you improve your speaking or grow your business:

1 – Get my free guide – 5 frameworks to ace a short speech.

Create a speech stress-free and fast. Make it work every time.

2 – Connect with me on LinkedIn.

3 – Do you need a speaker or a workshop for your organisation? Get in touch.

4 – Find out about coaching and courses.