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Tips to increase participation on your next speaking event

As a co-founder of Votemo, a platform that provides interactivity tools for events, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts on why I believe interactivity should be part of every event engagement strategy out there and an integral part of each speaker's presentation tactics. Taking from my personal experience, making the audience an active part of your presentations increases learning and satisfaction for both the speaker and the audience.

Events as a medium can serve very many different purposes, but in its essence, every speaking event should always aim to spark learning, raise questions and inspire. In my experience, achieving these 3 outcomes requires participation. Participation however only happens through meaningful interaction with your audience.

Dagmar Mäe, Co-Founder & Head of Sales at Votemo, speaking at IBC, Future Trends stage
Dagmar Mäe, Co-Founder & Head of Sales at Votemo, speaking at IBC

Empower your audience using interactivity

Let me share my experience.

I have worked 4 years as a mentor and lecturer with BA students in Tallinn University. Experienced in cross-media production I was hired to put together a course from a practitioner's perspective. The goal was to guide the students through the production process of their cross-media projects.

One of the life-changing realisations I had during my teaching years arrived through watching a guest speaker giving my class a session about self-management and teamwork. Seeing the way she was interacting with the students and the way her session was set up was a real eureka moment for me. I started using some of her presentation tactics in my own sessions and as a result, it made me realise what a saying empower your audience really means.

I understood that although interaction had previously been part of my presentation tactics (I always left room for questions and students to share their thoughts) I had been missing a few extremely important moments that shift the whole experience into a true participatory learning experience. After applying a few changes to my presentation tactics I was able to see really positive results.

This experience made me understand how making your audience an active part of your sessions is when the magic happens and learning and satisfaction multiplies.

Audience participation is key for successful seminar and presentation at any event
Participation is key for successful seminar

Presentation tactics to spark learning and audience engagement

Keep reading to find out the presentation tactics I used that sparked more learning:

  1. Set the mood An important part of creating a learning environment is setting the mood. At the start of your sessions, give your audience a chance to switch off from whatever was on their mind before and to focus on the present moment and topic. Ice-breakers are a great way to do that.

  2. Get to know your audience Get to know your audience. Depending on the topic at hand, ask them about their expectations or their questions for the day; or ask what is it that they do for work or what are their hobbies. The purpose is to get feedback that will help you to craft your presentation more toward your audience’ interest. Word cloud or commenting is a good solution for finding out the expectations just within a few minutes.

  3. Manage expectations Use the feedback you got from the audience by getting to know them to manage their expectations for the session. Let them know what value you will be providing but also let them know if there are some things they were looking for, but that you can not cover so the audience knows what to expect. I've learned that disengagement is like a disease, it spreads. Having people in the audience not interested in what is happening on the stage reduces the general energy for all. Therefore make sure not to miss this part, as it gives the ones who feel the topic is not for them a chance to leave before you get to the actual topic.

  4. Check if your audience is still with you Now and then you need to check if your audience is still with you and apply presentation tactics that help you to bring back the attention of the audience members whose minds might have wandered elsewhere. You can do this by adding a few questions to your audience halfway through your presentation. For example, ask them to participate in the poll where they can express their opinion on the discussed topic and provided solutions or ask them to propose their own solutions. If the session is longer than 45 minutes, make sure to include some freshen up ice-breakers or gamification. This gives your audience a short break which helps them not lose focus and can also lighten up the mood and take you 'closer ' to your audience. For example, have your audience express their feelings or mood using a word cloud or emojis.

  5. Always leave room for questions Often there is little time for questions. Something that can help you here is to have your audience write the questions — this way, you can focus on the questions that show up more often and either follow up regarding specific questions afterwards or tackle them in your next session. Writing the questions is also a means to increase the quality of the questions as submitting questions in a written form, the questions are usually more thought through. Also, there are often people who just don’t want to speak in public, and asking a question in front of others feels uncomfortable, writing is a good way to have them involved as well.

  6. Leave space for reflection Have your audience process what they have learned by asking them to say what was their key takeaway or asking their thoughts about a certain topic that was discussed. For example: Having taken into consideration everything we discussed today, would you prefer option A or option B? What is the key takeaway for you from today's session? What did you find most surprising about today's topic?

If you'd like to discuss the topic of audience engagement and how Votemo can help you in empowering your audience, please drop me an email at or visit our website for ideas and extra information.



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