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How to keep your audience engaged during a meeting

In any scenario, it is absolutely crucial that you know and understand your attendees.

How to keep your audience engaged during a meeting
[vectorfusionart / Adobe Stock]

Let’s face it: Nobody loves meetings. But in reality, they are just part of the territory in the business world, especially if your business encompasses a large number of people. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to keep your audience interested. Consider these five ideas before hosting your next meeting.

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AIRPLANE MODE

This may seem like a very obvious and elementary suggestion. But the fact is that every single one of us has a smartphone in our pocket. While it may not be realistically possible to create a totally phone-free meeting space, its perfectly acceptable to politely encourage attendees to turn them on airplane mode and put them away. Yes, that means you too. Absolutely no one wants a speaker to be constantly derailing the session to respond to emails and texts. Rudeness aside, interruptions waste time and can make you look unprepared. Putting away the distractions is an easy way to show your attendees that their time and attention is valuable.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

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In any scenario, it is absolutely crucial that you know and understand your attendees. Are they new to your team or are they veterans? Are you presenting them with brand new information or is your subject matter part of their daily routine? What do you expect them to do with the information you’re presenting? If you want your meeting to be productive, you have to ensure that you are communicating clearly and effectively with your audience. The way you would address a room of your own team members is different from how you’d want to speak to a client or potential customer. So make sure your presentation is tailored to the eyes and ears of those who will be receiving it. Take time to define new or unusual terms, tell stories, and give examples. You can even use your own personal stories and experiences to break the ice and build a quick rapport.

PRESENTATION, PRESENTATION, PRESENTATION

The use of office tools such as PowerPoint has become a staple in meeting environments. They allow you to be creative and present a high volume of information in an easy-to-use format. But you can also shoot yourself in the foot with a PowerPoint that isn’t well-built. You will lose your audience almost immediately if they’re being bombarded with thick paragraphs on every slide. A presentation that requires too much reading might as well have been an email. Instead, utilize the technology in a way that simplifies what is on the screen. Your PowerPoint should function more like a set of notecards for you to follow rather than a mountain of information that people will only partially grasp. By arranging ideas in a bullet point format, you can keep the discussion moving forward while simultaneously requiring people to listen to your voice instead of trying to keep up with a long and wordy essay on the screen.

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You can also choose to incorporate video clips or hyperlinks to help you move the discussion along. Graphs and charts will always be an essential part of a presentation. But this is your chance to be creative. Use the technology to its fullest and include bright colors, easy-to-read fonts, and fun animations to brighten up the information and make it easier to follow. And remember that you aren’t bound to electronic formats. You can vary the kind of media you use to break up the monotony of a single speaker. Consider bringing in other presenters, or distributing copies of important information to reduce note-taking. Be energetic.

SUMMARIZE

It is incredibly easy to overwhelm an audience during a meeting. But even during a short presentation, you will inevitably lose someone’s attention at some point. Its just human nature. A helpful way to bring everyone back to the same page is to quickly pause and summarize. At the close of a section, or before moving on to a new topic, include a summary slide in your PowerPoint. This doesn’t need to be elaborate or detailed. A few simple bullet points or reminders will allow you to pause and quickly recap the information you’ve just covered. The short pause and shift in topic does a great job at pulling stragglers back into the presentation and allows note takers to ensure they haven’t missed something important.

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ENCOURAGE FEEDBACK

Once you’ve wrapped up your presentation, it’s a good idea to open the floor to feedback from the audience. Of course, this depends entirely on what kind of meeting you’re hosting. You might allow your client to ask questions about the terms of a sale or for them to offer a counterproposal. You could also ask your team for their input on your new ideas or potential options you might have collectively. This portion of your meeting should be much more conversational than the presentation itself. People appreciate feeling seen and heard when it comes to changes that directly affect them. Scheduling time for an open discussion or Q&A not only ensures clear understanding of your content but can also be a key opportunity for team-building. Don’t skip this step! If it isn’t possible within the time frame of the meeting itself, you could also consider sending a follow-up email to everyone who attended. Thank them and invite them to contact you with any questions.

Keeping your audience engaged is crucial to ensure you’re communicating your information effectively. An audience that’s been put to sleep simply won’t retain your most important points. Know your audience in advance and tailor your presentation to their needs. Keep them focused by limiting cell phone use, creating an interesting presentation, and allowing time for questions or feedback. Using these methods will help you achieve your goal as a presenter. Summarize your points in a concise manner and keep the lines of communication open even after the meeting has concluded. Your team members, clients, and customers will thank you and you can feel confident that your meeting was a success.

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Brandon Pena is the CEO of 787 Coffee & BIP Media. He is an award-winner social-media marketer with a focus in the humanization of brands.

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