Self-Promotion for Introverts

Career advancement tips, quips, and insights for the quieter crowd

Presentations for Introverts: Interactive is Easier! Part 2

Get others to talk—you’ll buy yourself time to think

In the first part of this story, I shared tips to help you connect with your audiences and lighten your load by making your presentations interactive. These tips can be especially helpful if you’re an introvert because they enable you to catch your breath, gather your thoughts, and then share the best you have to offer your audiences. They will also make your presentations more engaging—so both you and your audiences benefit. Ready for a few more tips?

1. Get physical. Ask audience members to get on their feet and do stuff. This is great for those who have been sitting on their duffs all day and look ready for a nap. Standing up quickly shifts the energy of the room—and will be a welcome surprise for most. You can get your audience to do anything from simply walking in place to taking a few stretches to learning exercises like solving a puzzle, designing a prototype, or building something. Kinesthetic learners will love you!

2. Provide objects to play with. Not only children like playing with toys. Depending on your topic and audience, you could supply fun doodads to play with like pipe cleaners, which will give the fidgeters (aka, “makers”) in your audience something to do while they’re learning. You can also use toys in your presentations—for example, having audience members toss a foam ball to choose who gives the next answer. Sources for ideas and said doodads are your local office supply store and online retailers like Trainers Warehouse.

3. Bring an audience member up to the front of the room. Isn’t it lovely shifting the spotlight? This is another way to get your participants participating. Invite them up to demonstrate something you’ve discussed or to elaborate on an important point they’ve made. Since some people suffer a public speaking phobia, avoid putting audience members on the spot. As one of the ground rules you state and post upfront, give them the option to say “pass.” Surprisingly, bringing people upfront can also be an advanced "presentation-judo" technique to handle unruly audience members—rather than resisting their desire for the spotlight, you can give them as much as they can handle! This technique is best for more advanced presenters.

4. Fuel your audiences with food and drink. It may sound like a cheap trick, but if your audience members haven’t eaten in a while, a little chocolate or other candy might just give them the second wind they’ll need to focus on your fascinating talk on macroeconomics. If there’s a way to get them coffee and soda, go for that too. Let’s face it: people love free food, and it never hurts to have some reciprocity tendency working for you.

5. Raffle off a freebie. Speaking of freebies, another treat you can offer your audiences is a chance for them to win something. The act of collecting their business cards, picking one, calling out the winner’s name, and congratulating them once they’ve won, is a simple, time-tested technique to interact with your audience while boosting their morale. You can raffle any type of goods or services that your audience would like.

6. Welcome questions. Conducting a Q&A is the most obvious way to interact with your audiences. If you’re an introvert, prepare for and practice your answers to the toughest questions you can anticipate. If you get silence when you ask the audience for questions, you can prompt them by saying, “Here’s a question I’m typically asked,” and provide the answer. This could spur on more questions. A more advanced technique is to plant questions in the audience, just to ensure that you’ll have good ones to answer.

Try some of these interactive techniques with your audiences and report back. If you’ve seen or tried other ones, you’re welcome to share them here too. Meanwhile, here’s to making your presentations more like a two-way conversation than a speech.


© Copyright 2014 Nancy Ancowitz

Nancy Ancowitz is a business communication coach, an adjunct instructor at NYU, and the author of Self-Promotion for Introverts (McGraw-Hill).

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