Not just a fly on the wall

Chuck Hollis asked a couple great questions in his recent blog post From Presenting to Engaing

Which brings up some interesting questions, like “what are the key engagement skills?” and “how do you teach people how to engage vs. present?” and “how do you improve and/or measure your engagement skills?

What are the key engagement skills?

The very first key is the ability to listen. I’m not talking about just listening to what people are saying but how they are reacting to what you are saying. Many of us have sat through lectures, presentations and are falling asleep. I refer to these and the presenters as “Ben Stein” not to knock the person but he has a very monotone voice, you know what to expect and even if the actual information was good people aren’t “wowed”.

I also think Passion for the topic you are covering is huge. You are more willing to open discussions on things you find personal interest in.

Get out of your comfort zone, if you get stuck with one way of thinking then you become closed minded and are going to argue more then engage and learn.

How do you teach people how to engage vs. present?

You can’t teach people to engage!  Wait did I just say you can’t teach engagement?


You can however give them the tools to be more comfortable with discussing a particular topic. By being comfortable they will want to engage.

The more people feel comfortable on a topic and the more they enjoy that topic they will want to discuss it with others. Again though you have to keep an open mind because once you close the door on thinking it’s one way and become defensive you lose the crowd.

Now what tools am I talking about? I’m not talking about a book to read or powerpoint slides, the latest high tech gadget.

The mental tools  is where you shall exceed, make sure to maintain eye contact with the group, don’t focus on the left, right or front rows. Look at the whole audience.

A great example of this would be to look at Garth Brooks performing in Concert, he is all over the stage!

People react in 3 ways Fight, Flight, Freeze. Wait Fight,Flight, or Freeze? Change that to Engage/Interact , Leave, Not ask questions /Stick to the slides, in the case of presenting and audience. The goal is to get everyone into the Engage/Interact reaction.

One simple thing you can do to help is to mentally go over various situations which will ultimately reduce the Flight & Freeze reaction and increase the Fight. So bringing it back to presenting terms better overall experience for the presenter & audience.

So if you are a presenter then go over your presentation over and over, this will help you to know where a good point to go off topic and engage the crowd. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to lose the presentation and you must reel it back to your core discussion.

How do you improve and/or measure your engagement skills?

To answer this question is simply ask the people attending how can I make this better. For a personal way to recognize if you are doing a good job is by noticing people are coming up to you after and wanting to continue the discussion. You can be the smartest person but if you are boring people will leave then try and Google for the information they are looking for or ask somebody else.

Sum it up

Chuck did a great job in his post. I never saw 35mm slides and for very short period of time did I see the overhead projector slides. Technology will definetly change through the years. At some conferences now look into the crowd and you shall see the Laptops, iPads, Smartphones and people tapping away, as a presenter you must over come these. Chuck made his presentations more engaging by using none to very little slides based on what he was discussing. The goal soon will be to make the overall experience great and to get people to put the gadgets down and become part of the discussion and not just a fly on the wall.

Disclaimer: The Fight, Flight, Freeze anaolgy and thinking comes from MOAB Training.