5 tips for increasing audience participation in training workshops

Public speaking tips tick

This afternoon I ran a training workshop focusing on blogging and blogging strategy. The session was three hours long, and I was keen to break up a talk of this length with some interactive breaks to help promote thinking around the topic and the application of the ideas I was presenting by the audience to their business.

I was fortunate enough to have a quite responsive audience who were keen to throw ideas around and discuss the points raised. It got me thinking though – what if I hadn’t had such a willing audience?

Here’s five quick tips to increase audience participation in training workshops.

1. Give your audience the chance to participate. It sounds so simple, but so many speakers and trainers do not design their talks with supporting activities, materials or breaks. Make the interactive parts a natural piece of the talk to avoid it feeling stilted.

2. If the audience are struggling with a task, or are not vocal, re-ask the question, reframe it, or ask them to apply it to a fictional scenario. Often, not talking about themselves or applying ideas to others encourages an audience to air more radical, forward-thinking views and shake off what they see to be their own limitations.

3. Always have your own answers. If the audience isn’t forthcoming with answers to your questions, give example answers from your own experience to help fuel the discussion or activity.

4. Make an ally. There will always be one character in the room that is more dominant than the rest of the audience, use this character to start discussions, use them as a conduit to get others talking. For example, ask the character of the group, ‘what would (other member of the group) think about this, in your opinion?”. Once the character has given his/her opinion, the person in question will no doubt respond and a conversation begin.

5. Bring a thought provoker. If it’s not going well and it seems nothing will inspire your audience or get them animated, always have some relevant and thought provoking videos/images/concepts to present to them to really switch the whole atmosphere of the session and reframe the thought processes behind their thinking on your topic.

These were my first five thoughts after my workshop today – has anyone else any lessons that they have discovered in increasing audience participation in training workshops?

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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