16 Presentation Tricks To Keep Your Audience Awake And Attentive

Do you know anyone who likes sitting through boring presentations? Me neither. You’re reading this article because you have a presentation coming up and you don’t want to subject your audience to this very horror. But how exactly do you keep people awake? Well, that’s what you’re about to find out today. Scroll down and read on for the top 16 presentation tricks to keep your audience awake.

How To Engage An Audience During A Presentation

Be enthusiastic!

Here's a fun way to engage an audience - be very enthusiastic!
Put a smile on your face and show your enthusiasm! Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Have you ever listened to a presentation where the speaker just drones on and on without any enthusiasm for the subject? I have. Plenty of times, in fact. I can still remember their droopy shoulders and lifeless voices, and how the audience will start to get restless after the 5-minute mark.

There are no ifs and buts about it – enthusiasm is a must if you want to engage your audience! It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the most boring topic on earth.

If you deliver your message enthusiastically and passionately, then you’re going to grab your audience’s attention. They’ll start wondering what the catch is, and they’ll ask themselves, “Why is he so passionate about this topic?” You’ll capture their curiosity, and you’ll be able to hook them in throughout your presentation!

But how exactly do you show enthusiasm?

To answer that question, ask yourself how you behave when you’re enthusiastic about something and when you’re not. Wouldn’t you say you behave differently when you’re into something? Your heart probably beats a little bit faster, you feel like you’ve got a bounce in your step, you find yourself smiling when you talk about it, you’ve got a gleam in your eye!

In short, your enthusiasm is going to manifest itself in your body language. So, that’s what you need to do – make sure your body language shows just how enthusiastic you are about your topic!

Do something unexpected

Doing something out of the blue is one of the most popular presentation tricks to keep your audience awake and attentive. For example, if you notice your audience starting to drift off, then you may want to pause for a few seconds and maybe break out into a song or dance or any other totally unexpected action!

Then you can tease those who weren’t paying attention that they just missed out on your greatest performance ever! Of course, this example won’t apply in all cases, but if it makes sense for you to do (and you’ve got the guts to do it), then don’t be afraid to try it out.

Doing something that’s out of your element will not only surprise you but your audience members as well. If all you’ve been doing so far on your presentation is talk about what’s on your slides, then you may want to bring out some props that will help break the monotony.

You can also call upon a surprise guest to come over on stage. If it’s someone who’s popular or well known amongst your audience, then they’ll be in for some pleasant surprise.

You know your presentation and your audience best. Think of something that will classify as ‘unexpected,’ and you just may be surprised at how your audience will react to it!

Show relevant video(s)

Don’t be afraid to play videos in your presentation, especially if you know it’s going to reinforce your presentation’s message in your audience’s minds. You don’t need to go out there and shoot an all-original video.

If you can find something relevant on YouTube, then feel free to use it. But make sure you only use the relevant parts. If it’s an hour-long video and you only need 15 seconds of it, then only show those 15 seconds. Just make sure you credit the video’s original owner. Otherwise, you’d end up stealing content!

You can either insert videos on your PowerPoint slides or you can pause your slideshow for a bit and open YouTube on your browser. The first method is ideal, of course, as it will allow for smoother transitions. The second method will disrupt the flow of your presentation, but if you can pull it off, then that’s fine. Either way, it’s important that you choose videos that will add value to your presentation.

Ask thought-provoking questions

Ask thought-provoking questions to keep your presentation audience awake
Don’t be afraid to ask thought-provoking questions. Photo by Jeremy Beck on Unsplash

When you ask the right questions, people will take the time to process the information in their brains. Therefore, if you want them to pay attention, you’d need to think of a question that will actually make their mental faculties work.

You don’t have to ask them to come forward to share their answers, but if you can get them to pay attention and attempt to answer your question, then consider that a successful activity.

One technique you can use is by asking a funny, but thought-provoking question. For example, if you’re giving a talk on parenting, maybe you can ask a question like:

“Now that you’ve had your toddler for a couple of years, do you think you gave him or her the most appropriate name? If you could change it, what would you change it to?”

If you deliver this question engagingly, then you’ll most probably be able to elicit laughter from your audience. Now, you just need to find a way to connect your question (and their theoretical answers) to the topic at hand.

Welcome people’s opinions

We all want to be heard, in one way or another. If you’re talking about a controversial topic and you know not everyone’s going to accept your opinion, then you may want to consider hearing what other people think about the issue.

Now, the thing is it’s your presentation. You control the narrative. If you feel like the discussion’s getting out of hand or your audience’s consuming far too much time, then you can simply put a stop to it, and go back to discussing the next point in your presentation. The good news is you’ve got your audience’s attention, and they’re most likely going to be awake for the rest of your presentation!

Use the right kind of humor

Use the right kind of humor to capture your audience's attention
Use the right kind of humor to capture your audience’s attention. Photo by Jamie Matociños on Unsplash

Humor is one of the best icebreakers known to man. If you’ve got a great sense of humor and a fun personality to boot, then chances are you can easily charm your audience. However, not everyone’s gifted with humor. Sure, you can make some jokes, but if you don’t deliver it naturally, then it’s going to fall flat. There’s probably nothing more awkward than telling a joke that no one else but you (and maybe your mom) thinks is funny!

Make your joke relevant to your presentation. If you reference something in your joke, then make sure it’s going to be something your audience can relate to. If you make a ‘Seinfeld’ joke, then you better be 100% sure your audience knows who Seinfeld is! Take the time to get to know your audience (do this before your presentation), so you can create a list of possible jokes that everyone’s going to understand and like.

Another thing that works wonders with people is self-deprecating humor. When you make yourself the butt of your jokes, you’re essentially making yourself ‘one of the guys.’ You’ll be someone that the audience can relate to, someone who’s not high up on a pedestal. When you put yourself ‘down,’ you come across as someone who’s witty but also self-aware. You basically tell people that you’re human just like they are!

Now, unless you’re presenting in a comedy show, you may want to keep your humor to a minimum, especially if you’re talking about a relatively serious issue. You don’t want to undermine your own topic. Unfortunately, humor has a way of making people see serious things as less serious. If this is not what you want, then use humor sparingly.

Play games to engage the audience during your presentation

There are many creative audience participation ideas out there. One of the most popular ones is by asking your audience to play a game. If you research your audience in advance, then you should have an idea of the type of games that’ll be a good fit for them.

Here are a few interactive activities to do in a presentation:

  • If you’re presenting in front of competitive individuals, then a game of “Bring Me” may get them excited.
  • If you want to build teamwork, you can ask the audience to team up into different groups. Then you can ask them to play a game which will help them get to know their group members.
  • If you’re presenting to an older crowd, then you may not want them to engage in physically taxing activities. Unless, of course, your presentation is about physical fitness or something related to it. If it is, then you should get your senior audience member’s moving!

Try to think outside the box. Ask yourself if the activity you’ve got in mind will help achieve the desired effect, that is, it will get people to pay attention to your presentation’s message!

Get people to move around for a bit

Having short breaks in between presentations or speakers is common. But still, many people will choose just to remain seated until the next speaker comes on stage. If this is the case, then you need to think of how you can get your audience to move around for a bit, especially if you can see them looking bored and sleepy.

One way to do this is by asking them to stand up, do some mild exercises, or something similar. You can try asking them to move 3 steps to the right, then 6 steps to the left, and then another 3 steps to the right so they end up on their seats.

Think of fun ways to engage your audience, maybe try to inject humor into the situation as well. Tell them you don’t want them falling asleep during your presentation. That’s why you’re making them do these silly exercises. Don’t be afraid to be honest, your audience will most probably appreciate your candor.

Ask your audience to go on social media

Presentation Tricks To Keep Your Audience Awake include asking your audience to go on social media
If it makes sense for your presentation, ask your audience to go on social media to create awareness and help promote your message. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you’re presenting in front of millennials, then you may want them to go on social media and ask them to help spread the word about your presentation. Ask them to use a special hashtag.

You can tell them you’re going to choose the most creative post and the winner gets an award. This technique will help you take a quick break from presenting, your audience gets to play around with their smartphones, and you get free promotion and shout-out on social media!

Research different ways to make a presentation interactive. There’s no shortage of creative and interactive presentation ideas you can implement. Just make sure it’s something that’s going to be a good fit for your audience.

Pass around your product

If you’re demoing your product, don’t just show it on stage or on your slideshow. If it’s small and portable enough to pass around, then let your audience take a closer look.

You can sell them on the features, but remember, it’s the benefits that need to be emphasized. How is your target audience going to benefit from your product? How will it make them their lives easier? Will it help them increase their productivity? Will it help them learn and master a new skill? Whatever it is, you’ve got to make sure your audience see themselves using your product.

Product demos are great for increasing conversions. Your audience gets a first-hand look at how your product works. Right there and then, they can decide if your product is something that’s going to be a good fit for them.

Let people repeat your main ideas out loud

Repetition often works wonders when it comes to memorizing or learning something new. Think about it, the more you practice your speech, the easier it gets for you to master it. The same idea needs to be applied to your audience.

The first time they hear your ideas, they may not entirely understand what you’re trying to say. However, if you ask them to repeat it, then they’ll be more likely to remember it. You can even try calling out a random person in your audience, and ask them to repeat your idea. This will help keep everyone else on the edge of their seats, too!

Go off script

Creative interactive presentation ideas - dont be afraid to go off script
Don’t be afraid to go off script! Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

You’ve prepared for your presentation weeks in advance. You’ve drafted a speech or at least an outline of the most important points you’re going to cover in your presentation. But just because you’ve done your homework and came prepared doesn’t mean you should stick to your plan word-for-word.

Have a bit of fun and go off script a few times! Doing or saying something totally unexpected and impromptu will add some life to your presentation. Just make sure you know where you left off, so you can go back to the next point in your presentation. One way to make sure you don’t forget what you’re talking about is to use your slides as a guide to steer you back on topic.

Ask someone else to go up on stage with you

One of the best presentation tricks to keep your audience awake is to pick a random audience member and ask them to go up on the stage. Of course, you can pre-arrange to have someone share their story or their testimonial, but if you want to do it randomly, that’s totally up to you. Just make sure you lay down a few ground rules beforehand. For instance, you can tell your audience you’re looking for volunteers who want to share their insights, but they should limit their speech to a few minutes only.

If you’re working with a team, then perhaps you may want to consider having a few team members come up on stage and share some stories on how your product came to be.

Just make sure you have a backup plan if your volunteer or guest speaker suddenly forget how to speak! Stage fright is real, you know. One moment you have a volunteer, and the next, you don’t!

Use the power of voice inflection

Even if you don’t have any visual aids for your presentation, a.k.a. PowerPoint slideshow, you can still captivate your audience. How? By using the power of your voice!

When you speak, your voice rises and falls; this is called inflection. As a presenter, it’s imperative that you master this skill. You don’t want to sound like a robot. Instead, you want to sound like a warm, engaging and highly enthusiastic speaker!

Record yourself while practicing your speech. Listen closely, and you just might be surprised by how you sound! Your speech may be perfectly written, but your tone or pitch may leave a lot to be desired. Figure out the best ways to emphasize the right words that can make an impact on your listeners.

Practice smiling while you deliver your speech – you’ll find yourself sounding a whole lot friendlier. When you master this powerful technique, your listeners will be more receptive to your message!

Watch Brian Tracy’s awesome video on how to charm people with your voice:

What’s in it for them (the audience)?

There’s a lot of things that go into making a successful presentation. But the most important factor you should never, ever forget, is the answer to every single audience member’s burning question, “What’s in it for me?”

Think about it – you’re motivated by things that matter to you. Things that make you happy, help you become more productive, let you earn more money, etc. If you have a choice, you’d rather not waste your time listening to someone ramble on and on about something that has no obvious benefit for you.

Now, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. If they manage to listen to your entire presentation, what are they going to get out of it? How will they benefit from your presentation? Will they learn something new? How can they use their new knowledge to improve their lives?

Answer these questions, and you’ll have your audience listening to you with rapt attention all throughout your presentation!

Don’t read your slides!

If you’re planning on putting up huge blocks of text in your presentation slides, then you need to rethink your strategy. Nobody wants to read entire sentences and paragraphs on slides!

It’s your presentation – the spotlight is on you. You want people to pay attention to your message. You don’t want them getting distracted by your ‘wordy’ slides. Why would they listen to you when they can just read your slides?

You may not realize it, but when you read from your slides, you’re basically insulting your audience’s intelligence! Shocking, eh? Well, that’s precisely how your audience is going to feel. They can read for themselves, thank you very much. They don’t need to have you read on their behalf.

So, to avoid getting tempted to read your slides, then it’s best to design your slides in such a way that text will be kept to a minimum. Instead of sentences or paragraphs, use graphics that will convey the same message, but in a more visually attractive manner.

Use vector icons, images, and plenty of white space in your slides. Use your slides as a nice backdrop for your speech, but don’t let it overpower your presentation. Captivate your audience with a powerful message. Let your charm and personality shine through.

What’s Your Favorite Presentation Tricks To Keep Your Audience Awake?

Knowing how to engage and captivate the audience is a skill every presenter needs to master. Not getting through to them is as good as wasting your – and your audience’s – time. Implement the 16 presentation tricks I’ve listed in this article to ensure your audience stays awake during your talk. Make your presentation highly engaging, and your audience will remember you and your wonderful presentation for a long time to come!

You might also find this interesting: 10 Ways to Make Academic Presentations More Interesting