Here are some techniques to get audience participation that I came across:
Audience participation can be an element of effective showmanship in public speaking. The old saying, “Everyone likes to get into the act,” is probably about ninety-nine per cent true.
When the speech material permits, a speaker can get his audience into the “act” by asking for a show of hands as an answer to some question. One speaker did this by saying, “Now I’m going to ask for a show of hands. How many of you had difficulty finding a parking spot on Main Street tonight?” As the speaker talked he encouraged action by reaching for the ceiling himself. He paused for the response. Then he continued speaking, “Several did, I see. And the rest probably brought their parking spaces with them.”
Another speaker who was scheduled to speak third on a program knew the people were tired sitting, so he started his speech by saying, “Let’s all stand for a seventh inning stretch, please.” While the people were standing he walked over to an old man in the front row, put his hand gently on the old man’s shoulder-and said, “You know, I took a big chance when I asked those people to stand, didn’t I? They could have all walked right out that side door!”
Such impromptu remarks usually make favorable impressions upon listeners because this type of speaking suggests that the speaker is not going to unload a canned speech, full of clever tricks, upon an audience. It also contributes to a relaxed atmosphere.
People are inclined to follow a speaker’s directions when he puts suitable bodily action into his request. For instance, when a speaker says, “Everybody stand, please,” he reaches out with both hands open, and makes a big upward sweeping movement as though he were actually lifting everyone up.
A speaker may add a humorous touch to this request by adding, “Now shake hands with your neighbor, and if she’s your wife, kiss her!” Usually somebody will, and people get a big kick out of seeing a man kiss his wife in public.
Or a speaker could say, “I’m going to give you half a minute break. And during that time see how many people you can shake hands with. Get ready now, go!” A variation of this activity is, “Everybody stand, please. Now turn around quickly and shake hands with the person behind you.” Everyone turns and, of course, there is no one to shake hands with. With a large audience this always gets a laugh.
These simple techniques can help to keep your audience interested and give them a chance to relax. Keeping your audience relaxed and interested is an important part of being persuasive. If you are wanting to know more about effective public speaking – try out our free 7 day e-course delivered direct to your inbox by simply entering your details in the box to the right to get started straightaway.