Through a number of BMcTALKS blog posts, you are encouraged to get your audience members/students/learners engaged as soon as possible. I have been shouting from the front of rooms and computer screens to anyone who will listen, "Move them from passive to active audience members fast!
And a few brave colleagues have asked "Uh ... so ... Bridgett, how do you do that?" I should have seen that one coming, right?
Here are some of my favorite ways to get the audience involved so it's not a chalk-and-talk or a sit-and-get session. They require virtually no preparation, and you can easily and expertly insert them into any presentation or class session at any time when you ...
1. need everyone to truly think about and process what you said;
2. sense a lull; or
3. know you have been talking too much and it's time for everyone to hear another voice.
And with each technique, I provide you with additional ways to adjust and take the technique up a notch. Enjoy!
1. ONE-MINUTE CONVERSATION
After your present a few minutes (5 to 15 minutes of information - depending on the total amount of time you have to present your entire presentation), pose an open-ended question that's based on the information you provided (and that's designed to determine how well everyone was listening), then have each audience member/student/learner partner with someone and have a conversation; use a timer and let them know when one minute has expired. Ask for volunteers to share the results of their conversations. (Or if you are short on time, you could ask a closed-ended question, one that requires only a one- or two-word response. For instance, if you present for a few minutes on services and/or products your company provides, then a question could be "What is one service or product my company provides?")
Take it to another level: Roam around the room and listen in on conversations. First, this lets the audience know you are interested in what's being discussed and aren't providing a meaningless activity. Second, you can conveniently answer any questions that may arise while the conversation can continue to flow. Third, you can sprinkle some highlights from the conversations into the remainder of your presentation. Finally, you can keep conversations on topic and on track if you circulate around the room.
Think it through: You might ask "What if conversations are really robust? Do I stop them at the one-minute mark?" And the answer is "No." If you sense the energy in the room is incredibly positive and lively, then let the conversations go another minute or so. However, if time is of the essence (you know how I believe in respecting people's time!), then do stop them, but tell them to turn to a colleague/classmate and commit to continue the conversation later and seal the deal with a high-five, or a fist bump, or ... well ... you know your style! Pick a "seal the deal" gesture, and roll with it!
2. ONE-MINUTE PAPER
Similar to the one-minute conversation, ask an open-ended question and then have the audience/students/learners members write their responses; use a timer and let them know when one minute has expired. Ask for volunteers to share what they wrote.
Take it to another level: This activity might be used in the closing, too, to get some quick feedback or for them to write down action steps for themselves. Or for a class session, it could be a formative assessment to help you determine where to start the next class session. For instance, you might "What was the most difficult concept in today's class for you to understand?" (And I recommend you list those concepts on a slide or the board.) Then you can flip through the responses to quickly glean what needs more attention either by you providing supplemental materials or additional information online or in class. Or business owners or professionals can ask the audience to write down one thing they learned about the business/product/service they did not know before the start of the presentation ... or the name of a prospect who could benefit from a consultation with the presenter.
Think it through: Because one minute tends to fly by, it is hardly ever ample time for audience members to complete the activity in the time allotted. As such, if you choose to have this activity at the conclusion of a session, then make sure you plan for the activity to take at least five to seven minutes so you can provide the directions, give enough time for thinking and writing to last for two or three minutes for some, and so you can collect the responses. And to make it easier on you, consider providing index cards so all of the responses are on the same size paper to make going through them a little more of a breeze. You might position yourself at the door (if you have already provided a proper conclusion to your session) and collect the cards and thank them for their participation as they exit.
Pose an open-ended question, have each audience member silently THINK about his/her own answer, and then have them PAIR with someone and have a conversation about their answers for a set amount of time. Once time expires, ask for volunteers to SHARE the results of their conversations.
Take it to another level: The SHARE might be a SHOUT! Ask audience members, when you give directions, that you will ask some volunteers to choose three or five words from their conversations that caught their attention and you will ask them to shout them out. Write these words on a board or a large PostIt for everyone to see throughout the session and to remind them of great ideas from their colleagues. (And if you want to get your audience moving, then have them stand during the PAIR conversation; just that little bit of movement and change of position can change the energy in a good way!)
Think it through: Ensure you give the audience members enough time to actually think on their own before insisting on the conversations starting. You might even suggest they write down their answers first so they have a solid starting point for their conversations. Additionally, consider having teams of three or four engage in the the Think-Pair-Share as opposed to only two colleagues. This helps if you have one person who does not like to talk much but will gain so much more from listening to others. Finally, one minute is not a hard and fast rule. Just let it flow ... like a river!