by DJ Hanson | May 07, 2018
Whether it's during a meeting of five coworkers or a packed auditorium, getting your audience  to pay attention can be extremely difficult. Even the pros need to continuously work on their presentation skills to keep their audience's interest piqued. 

So how do you keep your audience engaged time and time again? In my years of experience, I've learned five flawless tricks that can help you understand, speak to, and captivate the people to whom you're speaking. Here's what they are: 

1. Connect with your audience on an emotional level

Speak to people's hearts and their minds will follow. A powerful way to hook your audience is by connecting through emotions. Appealing to their sense of humor is one great way to do this. Being able to identify what makes them feel joy or compassion can help you leverage the concepts that stir their soul. Think about the theme of the event and what types of people are attending, then do some research into the pluses and minuses of their specialties.

Once you've got their attention, you can continue to use emotions to get them riled up. For instance, if you want the audience to feel connected to your leadership team, kick things off with a pop culture spoof or skit and let the audience see presenters with their hair down. Laughter isn't just medicine, it's a great tool to employ in meetings. 

2. Play it, don't say it

It takes a lot to captivate each individual when you're speaking to a room full of people, which is why I opt for the overarching tool that allows me to show rather than tell: whatever the story you're trying to convey, whatever the objectives you're trying to achieve, find ways to demonstrate it with more than just your words. 

Imagine you're representing a healthcare company that's promoting a product for rheumatoid arthritis, and you want to convey the patient experience in a relatable way. In order to show-not-tell, have everyone in the audience wear a brace that limits their mobility for the entire first day of the conference. Putting them in the patient's shoes is wildly more effective than a PowerPoint slide that says "Limited Mobility."

Creating an experience for your audience will keep their attention and push your message home.

3. Be relentlessly authentic

Audiences generally know if speakers are not being genuine or truthful. One of the biggest mistakes that speakers make is trying to be something they are not. The more personable and authentic a speaker is, the more attentive their audience will be. 

Some of the best guest speakers I've seen -- and I've seen quite a few -- are the ones who are also the most vulnerable. Encourage your presenters to be themselves -- the audience will thank them (and thank you).

4. Be open to new ideas from people in all job functions

There are a million ways to execute a meeting and blow your audience away. But the minute you repurpose that same idea at every meeting, the idea grows stale. 

In order to stay ahead of the curve, be open to fresh ideas. You never know where, or from who, the next great suggestion may come. Case in point: my company once opened a meeting with an act that one of my employees happened to catch on America's Got Talent and knew would work well for the event. It was a huge success. You never know where lightning is going to strike -- or which cloud it might come from.

5. Be a fierce audience advocate

Never start your meeting plan by making edits to the last year's agenda. This is a new audience, at a new point in time, with very new and specific needs. Every meeting needs to be a new experience -- not a rehash of what happened last year. It's a blank canvas and should be treated as such.  

Start planning by asking yourself, "What does this audience need, right here, right now?" When you've answered that question, it's time to start building your agenda. 

Throughout the planning process, you need to repeatedly ask yourself: How will this make the audience feel? Are we packing too much in to this session? Will this resonate? Does this meet the objectives we set for this audience, at this point in time?

If you always consider the audience as the foundation for your planning, they will feel the difference. If you want to captivate your audience keep them at the forefront of the project. These five tips will help you cater to your crowd and create and meaningful and exciting event. 

DJ Hanson is a managing partner and cofounder of BlueprintNYC, a powerhouse agency that specializes in audience engagement. BlueprintNYC helps their clients connect with their employees and customers by producing engaging and innovative experiences through live meetings and events, training, and employee communications.