3 Ways to Engage All Audiences (No Matter What Your Topic Is)

Actively engaging an audience during an F2F (face-to-face) presentation, speech, or training is not as difficult as you might think. All that matters is your commitment to do three simple things.

Contrary to what many presenters and trainers say, F2F audience engagement is NOT dependent upon group size, the room environment (theater-style seating versus table groups), or the topic you’re talking about. Keeping an audience interested and engaged really comes down to YOU taking the following three simple steps:

1.  You have to STOP talking so that audience members have time to DO something: talk, read, write, draw, move.

2.  You have to give your audience SPECIFIC instructions so they know EXACTLY what to do and how long they have to do it.

3.  You have to CHOOSE activities that are both relevant and topic-related; no fun-but-irrelevant activities allowed!

Here are three quick ways to engage audiences in both theater-style and table-group seating:

LEARNING BUDDIES: Before beginning to speak about the topic, direct your audience to form a seated group (if in theater-style seating) with folks in front and behind them, or seated near them. If they are already seated in table groups, skip this step. Then instruct them to quickly introduce themselves to their “learning buddies” and to tell them one or two facts they already know about the topic. Give your audience 2 – 3 minutes to do this. Return to this activity – having the audience members chat with their “learning buddies” about what they’ve learned – at least one or two more times during your presentation.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: After you’ve talked for about 20 minutes, stop the presentation and invite the audience to stand and do a quick stretch with you (you lead, they follow). Explain to them that this is an “oxygen break” – stretching gets more oxygen flowing to their brain. Then direct them to form small standing groups of 2 – 3 people with the folks nearest them. If in theater-style seating, they can do this with people in front, behind, and to the side. Tell them to each take a turn leading a stretch while telling their standing group the most important thing they’ve learned so far. The others in their standing group are to “follow the leader” and mirror the stretch. When done, they thank their group and sit down.

WRITE IT DOWN: Before your presentation, hand out blank index cards (or small note-taking cards with fill-in-the-blanks that you’ve created ahead of time). When you’re talking about an important concept, say, “This is profound so write it down.” Then STOP talking and give your audience time to write down the major point you’ve just made. Or give them the words they need to use to complete the fill-in-the-blanks card. On the back of the card, they can later write their “action plan” (how they plan to use what they’ve learned).

For 6 more ways to engage ALL audiences, click on the red button below:

(Content from: Training from the BACK of the Room! and The Ten-Minute Trainer by Sharon Bowman.) 

Interested in more ideas? Then plan to attend the globally-acclaimed 2-day “Training from the BACK of the Room” (TBR) Practitioner Class. For a list of public classes, dates, and registration information, click on the Training Calendar page.


  • Sharon! Hello! OMG! Great hearing from you as well. I always reference your material for the classes I teach. You may remember I was going through MICC (POST) under Mike Gray at SDRTC. I did certify as a Master Instructor. (Now if I can figure a way to attend one of your courses).

    And this weekend I will be presenting the Cafe Conversation technique at Palomar College’s Active Learning Conference!!

    All the best, Nick

    • Belated greetings, again, Nick – we were on vacation last week so just picking up your enthusiastic comment now – thanks again for the lovely kudos! Of course I remember you and the MICC/POST classes and conferences, and Mike Gray – fun times! And congrats on your Master Instructor Certification – whoo-hoo! 😀 Let me know how the Cafe Conversation technique went at the Active Learning Conference … I know you were FAB because you already are! 🙂 Sharon

  • I love it! Every time I visit Sharon’s site or reread any of her material, I learn something new! Unfortunately I forget more than I remember and can only use a couple techniques at a time at any one clas I teach —- hence the review and reread!

    • Hey Nick! What a delightful surprise to hear from you – hope all is well in your world! 🙂 Glad you’re still finding my website stuff useful in your training work. You rock, guy! 😀 Cheers to you and yours for 2018! 🙂 Sharon

  • Thank you for your post, Sharon. Your three point method is a good start for engaging the audience.

Comments? Questions? Reply here:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.