For those of us who spend time on the conference circuit, audience engagement is the holy grail.
Sure, you can run through your slide deck and say your lines. That is what most presenters do. And that is why most conferences suck. It is a fire hose of information. The audience could have stayed at home and read the slides or the white paper or the book – and most wished they had. There is no connection. No emotional response in the audience. And without that it is empty. A monologue, not a conversation. Information transfer, not insights.
When I talk to a conference organiser about my brief, I ask a simple question:
“At the end of my presentation, what do you want the audience to think, feel, do?”
Three simple words, but loaded with emotion. And loaded with risk for me. Far safer to hide behind the lectern and the slides. But that is not acceptable. With risk comes the reward of an audience that lights up and the energy that buzzes around the room and that’s why I “take to the stage”.
So I am always on the look out of examples of great presenters who really connect. TED is a perfect source. The improv or stand up comedy world is another great place to find role models (plus an excuse to watch comedy videos at work!!). But sometimes they come from unexpected places. Here is a beautiful example. Feel free to sing along at home.