Recently, after I gave a presentation, a few audience members came up to me and insisted that I couldn’t possibly be an introvert (could, too!). Why? They said I was “on fire”—fully engaged with my audience. I was giving a workshop on public speaking, and had a ball helping make such a universally feared activity accessible, and even fun.
Like many introverts, even though I need my quiet time to get fueled before and after a presentation, I enjoy being in front of the room, engaging with audiences. How can you do that? The trick is to take the spotlight off yourself and, instead, shift your focus to your audience—a win-win for you and them.
Many of the following tips are simple techniques that teachers and trainers have used forever. So you may have personally experienced some of them, or even used them as a presenter. If you’re an introvert, consider how you can you use them to spice up your presentations while giving yourself precious time to take little breathers from “extroverting” in front of the room.
Tips for Making Your Presentations Interactive
1. Take the audience’s pulse. Ask for a “quick show of hands” to find out what they’re thinking. Be sure to respond and adapt to what you learn from them (also poll the audience in advance whenever it’s feasible). If thinking on your feet is not your forte, arrive prepared to take your presentation in several different directions. And to build those thinking-on-your-feet muscles, consider taking an improv class (see “Improv for Introverts”).
2. Get Socratic on them. Ask your audience questions to get them thinking. This will enable a useful dialog with them. And while they’re talking, you get to catch your breath and get a little thinking time in yourself.
3. Give a pop quiz. Challenge your audience to see what they already know or what they’ve learned from your presentation. Ask them to jot down answers. While all that wood is burning, you’ll get another breather. Then, review the answers with the audience. Get them to explain their thinking, and throw in your own insights. Enjoy the dialog—and another break from being the center of attention.
4. Get them tweeting. For more tech- and social-media savvy audiences, give them a few minutes to turn on their handheld devices and ask them to share their thoughts via Twitter, which you can project onscreen. This can work in person and online.
5. Divide the audience into groups. You can do this in many ways—for example, you could ask them to select their teammates or, if time is short, just divide them up by where they are seated. Get each group to discuss the topic at hand and ask them to choose a spokesperson to report back. Doing this will get everyone into the act. Give them a set amount of time and specific instructions, which you can post to a whiteboard or flip chart.
6. Ask them to role-play. This is another activity that can work well in groups or even pairs. It’s an effective way to practice skills for interpersonal settings like meetings, interviews, or networking. Start by modeling an example yourself, or guide some volunteers from the audience into doing a quick demo. Then, have everyone do it for a set amount of time and report back.
In the second part of this story, you’ll get more tips to make your presentations feel more like one-on-one conversations with your audiences—a real plus for introverts. Meanwhile, you’re welcome to write in with your own favorite interactive presentation techniques.
© Copyright 2014 Nancy Ancowitz