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Expert Audience Engagement Tips To Captivate Your Audience

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Think about the lousy PowerPoint presentations you’ve sat through in the last few months. Today on the Moxie Talk blog, we are diving into all things audience engagement.

A subject matter expert reads bullets from their slides. Then they talk about the bullets and repeat the process with the remaining bullets on the slide. Then they do this over and over again.

For 51 slides.

Now if you are in the audience for one of those kinds of presentations you might die a thousand deaths watching this.

Does this speaker honestly think the audience is paying attention to them for the whole slide, let alone 51 slides? Are you ready to set aside those snore-inducing lectures and make your presentations fun and interactive?

Expert Audience Engagement Tips To Captivate Any Audience

Hi everyone, I’m Fia Fasbinder and welcome to Moxie Talk where we help you find your voice, share your message, and lead with confidence.

Before I dive into today’s blog if you watch me on YouTube, please make sure to hit that alert button so you get notified of all of the new video content I put out. And if you enjoy this blog, please make sure to share it with your friends.

Behavioral science and neuroscience can offer us a ton of insights that can level up our speaking capabilities especially when it comes to audience engagement.

"Dopamine Makes Memories"

Neuroscience studies show that novelty—or presenting new information, or even old information in an unexpected way—is an effective strategy to get and keep your audience’s attention because it triggers the release of dopamine.

Now most of us know that dopamine is a chemical that’s associated with pleasure and reward but what you might not know is that it is also associated with memory.

That’s why audience engagement techniques help us remember key points of a presentation.

In addition, when you do audience engagement or use audience engagement techniques, your audience releases oxytocin.

Now this is the hormone released by mothers and babies and it’s referred to as the connective hormone.

What happens when your audience releases oxytocin?

They mirror your excitement. Our mirror neurons are triggered.

This means if you are engaging and you are exciting and you are passionate about your topic, your audience will mirror that.

They are releasing all the great hormones to be right on board in alignment with you and this only happens when you engage your audience.

Moxie's 5 Principles Of Audience Engagement

Before we dive into some actual techniques around audience engagement that you can use in your presentations, let’s talk about Moxie’s 5 principles for audience engagement.

Now these are overarching principles that should guide every technique that you choose for your presentation.


Now the first is to earn their ears. If you are familiar with the saying, What’s in it for me? This is exactly what I’m talking about.

You need to think about how your audience is thinking and they will be thinking, What’s in it for me? What am I going to get out of this presentation?

So you need to somehow grab their attention and let them know what’s in it for me. That is number 1, and by the way, a great place to do that is your introduction.


Number 2 talk with them, not at them. When I was an actor, we had something called the fourth wall which means there is an invisible wall between the actor or the character and the audience.

This is exactly opposite of what we want in a presentation. In a presentation, there is no fourth wall. We are aiming for less monologue and more dialogue.

This means having conversations with your audience—making them feel included, making them feel like they are contributing to the presentation.


Number 3 is make deposits before withdrawals. This is a banking analogy, but what we mean is you need to show the audience that you care about the outcome of the presentation, their success, and what they’re getting out of the presentation.

If showing them you care is a deposit, asking them then to participate in the presentation is withdrawal.

Here, you always need a positive balance so show them you care and in return they will participate.


Number four put your audience first. This means you adapt your content and the audience engagement techniques you use to meet the audience’s unique needs, objections, and concerns.

It shows them you are more concerned about them than your slide deck or your presentation. This requires you to just do a little bit of audience engagement so you choose the proper techniques.


Number 5 and last but not least: Go where you want them to go. This means audiences will respond to the energy you pour into your presentation.

So if you want them to be excited you have to be excited. If you want them to be engaged and connected, you need to engage and connect with them.

This shows them that you are invested, that you have skin in the game, they have skin in the game, and all of those great mirror neurons will start firing off if you go where you want them to go.

The Importance Of Cadence

Audience Engagement Techniques

Another key component to audience engagement is cadence. In order to talk about cadence of audience engagement, I am going to introduce you to Dr. John Medina.

Dr. John Medina runs the Seattle Brain Institute and also wrote a best-selling novel called Brain Rules and he did one of our seminal studies on audience engagement.

In this study, Dr. Medina hooked an audience up to electro-cardiogram machines and he had a lecturer at the front of the room lecture to this audience.

What he found was that for every 10 minutes of the lecture, the audience’s heartbeats took a nosedive.

What does this mean for us?

This means that every 10 minutes for an in-person presentation we have to do something to shake it up. Dr. Medina calls this Emotionally Competent Stimulus. I call it Audience Engagement.

Dr. Medina has revised the study and redone the study for virtual presentations since a lot of us are presenting mostly virtually these days.

Are you seated? Because this is going to surprise you—audience engagement techniques for an virtual presentation must be every four minutes

This has to do with, obviously, the distractions that are all around your audience when you are presenting to them in a virtual environment.

We are going to talk about some techniques you can use every four minutes in virtual and every 10 minutes in person. These are by no means all of the audience engagement techniques out there.

These techniques are just a few of my favorites that will work both virtually and in person and a few of the audience engagement techniques that we teach over and over to our clients.

Technique #1: ASK QUESTIONS

Audience engagement technique number 1 is to ask questions even if they’re rhetorical. The person in charge is the one asking the questions.

You can use inclusive framing by asking effective questions of your audience during your presentation.

Ask questions in such a way that audience members would be able to respond. Those are inclusive questions.

Inclusive questions are great for building a shared identity among the crowd. You don’t put people on the spot with these. Instead you make them feel like they want to contribute and they’re competent.

Let me give you some examples: Tell me about your most recent (fill in the blank) experience. That’s something that we can all respond to and it’s an easy way to get people talking.

Another could be a prompt like, tell us about the best meal you ever had—this would be a great icebreaker but it might be harder to answer than something like tell us about a good meal.

These are ways to ask inclusive questioning. Obviously you’re not going to ask about meals, but those are just examples of ways you can ask questions to get people talking.

You want to focus on the benefits for your audience answering these questions. Not only will you engage those audience members who respond, but everyone will be paying attention to the people that respond.

The most engaging presentations use questions and again, you can ask questions that are rhetorical or you can ask questions that are more direct like what are you hoping to learn about this topic?

Be clear about whether your questions are rhetorical or specific or direct. You can use phrases like Who here…? or Who in this room…? And those who let your audience know that these are direct and they are meant to elicit real responses.

If you feel that you have an audience that is shy and you’re doing a virtual presentation, you can always ask them the questions and then ask them to answer in the chat.

Sometimes this will get an audience contributing and engaged even though they are not literally answering your question or a rhetorical question that you can ask is, Think for a moment about…

Right? That’s rhetorical.

Again, if you want to have them type their answer into the chat, you can, or you can just have them think about it.

As you become more comfortable asking questions and waiting for audience members to respond either in person or in the chat, you’ll learn if you need to follow with more rhetorical questions or more direct questions—you probably want to have a good balance of both.

On the flip side of asking questions is making sure you allow time for people to respond. Listen to their answers. In the words of Ernest Hemingway, when people talk, listen completely.

Most people never listen and a lot of us feel really unnerved when there’s silence. Thus, we feel the need to jump in and fill the silence and we don’t even wait for people to answer.

However, a lot of the time people are just thinking about the question you just threw out there. Make sure to give your question a little bit of time let it sink in and eventually somebody will answer.


Audience engagement technique number 2, tell stories that bring your ideas to life.

Try to make the stories relatable to everyday life and to the audience by using real examples or real case studies and not creative metaphors that are abstract.

Use examples and stories that your audience can relate to. Metaphors and stories are central to the way our memory works.

Remember I told you that when we use audience engagement techniques, we secrete dopamine and that is our memory hormone.

That is why we are hardwired for stories. A great story will stick in the attendee’s mind much longer than a chart will. Therefore, symbols, metaphors, analogies, case studies, these are mental shorthand.

They help you communicate a concept and make it real. Provide an example; you may not even need to go all Shakespeare and tell a forceful story. It might just be a mini example or a real life example or a short testimonial.

Whether you use an individual story or even invite your audience to share a story or play a video of a story, you’re tapping into the power of that special kind of story.

People are hardwired to remember stories because of that dopamine and because of those mirror neurons. If you can have a couple stories in your back pocket that you can use for certain presentations, you are sure to engage your audience.

Stories do not have to be long-winded, TED-like Shakespeare stories. Figure out ways to bring your facts to life.

Facts can be boring, but even a topic as boring as tax forms can be brought to life with the with the right stories. Hence, if you can help us recall information even about taxes by using a story, you are engaging us from the start.

One example I like to use is if anybody’s ever been to Maui and they’ve been to the road to Hana, they know that there’s all these treacherous turns off these cliffs and if you went off the cliff you would land in the ocean.

All along this winding road are these stories on plaques of people who have fallen off the cliff and met a horrible death. Some of them are pretty gruesome.

However, I can guarantee you that instead of just saying Danger, stay off the cliffs, telling a story of somebody that fell off the cliff is definitely going to make us feel more cautious about getting close to that line.

So those are stories. Obviously, not all of us are going to tell treacherous stories, but some kind of story that will bring the facts or your call to action to life is a great way to engage your audience. Even small metaphors, small analogies, or small case studies will do.


Technique number 3 is to launch a poll or a quiz and if this is a virtual presentation. You can use that chat box to get a pulse of how your audience is doing.

It’s so much easier now with virtual presentations because polling has become so much a part of so many of these platforms that we use for virtual presentations and you can get instant quantifiable results.

One technique that works really well and helps the group get excited is to ask the audience ahead of time what they want to get out of this presentation or meeting or training.

It’s a way to show your audience that you care about what they want to learn. It’s a great way to gauge your audience’s awareness about your topic and focus on what they want to learn and have a clear understanding of their goals for the presentation.

If you want to do some kind of quiz, you can split your audience into groups or form teams this works in virtual and in person and there is nothing that engages an audience like a little friendly competition.

Here’s some ideas:

To take a pulse of your audience by pulling them on breaks to see how they’re doing or give them a quiz where after you’ve taught something.

You break them into two groups and whichever group gets the answer first wins some kind of prize whether that’s a Starbucks gift card an Amazon gift card.

Use any ways that you can break them into groups, launch a poll or a quiz and then reward the group that gets the first answer. Whether that’s a multiple choice or a true and false or even a fill in the blank.

Friendly competition is a great way to engage your audience. Using polls and quizzes just to get a sense of what your audience is thinking how they’re feeling what they’re experiencing is a great way for you as the presenter to take a pulse of your audience.

Technique #4: GROUP ACTIVITY

Technique number 4 which can be a little bit trickier is group activity. Now as school kids most of us hated pop quizzes but adults love them.

Especially when we can get in groups and work as a group for around an activity. So rather than telling your audience a fact, ask them to work in groups to figure out the answer and then reveal the right answer.

You can even give a time period where they have to come up with this answer so that it’s a little bit more like a friendly competition.

Either do this at the beginning of the presentation where they have no idea and see if their answers are right after you’ve taught the topic which is a great way to engage them.

Or you can teach the topic and afterwards have them work in a group to see what they retained and what they can recall. Both of these are great group activities ideas.

Another one is to put up a slide with blanks after you’ve taught the topic and then have them in groups work to fill in the blanks. It’s another way to see how much they recall.

It’s fun, it’s social, they’ll be working in groups. There’s nothing like a little friendly competition when you organize a group activity to gamify information and get your audience engaged.

Here’s a technique that’s a little bit trickier but works really well and this is to give your audience something to actively participate in your presentation.

This means you set up a demonstration that audience members participate in. I can’t tell you what that is for your presentation but you can ask for volunteers to write on a flip chart you can ask them to draw on the whiteboard if it’s a virtual

Then you can have them show rays of rays of hands even virtual rays of hands or actually raising their hand if they have something to contribute to the demonstration or you could start the demonstration and round robin everybody contributing to whatever the demonstration is.

This is a great way to brainstorm to seek opinions to ask your listeners and your audience to discuss topics in a way that energizes the group and makes them definitely feel like they are part of your presentation.


Number five last but not least is to learn the art of effective Q&A. The Q&A section of your presentation is your time to shine.

Until now you’ve been the one asking questions to your audience but now it’s their turn to ask questions to you. You want to keep them engaged until the very last minute of your presentation and your time with them.

Be sure to allow enough time for this important important segment of your presentation.

Now because the more prepared you are the better relationship you will build with your audience and the more credibility you will have from your Q&A.

This means you have a chance to connect with your audience inspire them, leave them wanting more, leave them feeling like they really got a chance to ask the questions relevant to them.

Let’s break down how to do this

First, you need to connect with your audience. Invite the questions with a review of your content and your main message with a smooth transition to Q&A.

So you can ask them up front to write down some questions that they’d like you to answer in the Q&A around your topic so that you can connect with them.

Make sure that you are answering the questions that are relevant to them or you can simply do this after the presentation you can say “We are now going to take a moment for me to answer some of your questions” and make sure this presentation was relevant to you.

You also want to respond to the audience member who asked the question but refer to everyone in the room.

This means if the question is off topic, you can say something like “You know that’s a little bit too specific and I want to honor the time that this group has together. I would be happy to discuss this with you afterwards.”

If it is a question that is relevant to everybody you can say something like “Thank you for asking that. I know a lot of other people in this audience also have the same question or have this on their mind.” So what you’re doing is you’re directing your answer to that person but making everything everybody feel included.

Last but not least is to check for understanding by confirming that you actually answered the question that the audience had. So you can even say “Please let me know if that answered your question or Did that answer your question?”

You want to make sure that you are checking in with that audience member that ask the question and giving them the answer that they were looking for.

If this has to do with your slide deck, if you’re using a slide deck for your Q&A, we actually call these cover your bottom slides because it’s okay to have slides in the appendix of your presentation for the Q&A section.

You’ll probably not get asked about a lot of the questions that you put in your appendix slides but just have them there so that you feel safer you feel more comfortable especially if it’s an executive briefing.

You can have these slides there so if an executive asks a question in the Q&A section of your presentation, you are prepared to answer it and you have that slide there.

There you go the 5 principles of audience engagement, how often to use audience engagement and our 5 top audience engagement techniques here at Moxie.

I hope this helps you infuse your presentations with life, avoid the snooze fest and create audience audience-centric presentations. If you enjoyed this blog, please make sure to share it. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and like our videos.

If you want to know more about what we do here at moxie especially around audience engagement techniques, check out

Until next time make sure to lead boldly, live brilliantly and Speak with Moxie.


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