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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Use Interactive Tools

Interactive is the twenty-first-century word for getting people involved in what you are presenting. Here are some ideas you may wish to consider. Pick and choose those tools that complement your style and the expectations of your audience.

  • Interact with games. Those who teach adults, either as instructors or as trainers, typically have a selection of books containing games. Ask to see these books or seek them out in bookstores. Icebreakers, those that encourage people to interact with one another, work best. Keep the exercise to less than 5 minutes.

  • Interact with music to set the mood. Before you step on stage, play some "walk-on" music, i.e., a light, easy-listening melody that encourages the audience to settle down.

  • Interact with lighting. Arrange to lower the light level before you go on stage, then bring it up gradually. Maybe lower it when you are making a dramatic point.

  • Interact with your product. If you are presenting a product, let the audience experience that product for itself. You can explain the features and benefits, but let the product demonstrate itself. Invite the audience to touch and feel the product.

  • Interact with the Internet. Many presenters augment their presentation with images from a web site. Some even hold teleconferences over the Internet. If you choose this e-avenue, make certain that you use a projection screen large enough for everyone to see.

  • Interact with props. One effective technique is the lone chair. Place it on the stage. You may sit on it, place your foot on it, or even create an imaginary dialogue with it.

  • Interact with clothing. Something you wear can be a prop. Often a presenter who is wearing a suit will stride to the podium and make a point of taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves. By doing so, the presenter sends a signal that the mood will be informal and down to earth.

Engaging the audience is a presenter's chief responsibility. As we have shown, there are many ways to stimulate an audience response. The challenge for the presenter is finding the right balance between message and staging. Sometimes words alone are enough. Other times, you may need both visuals and interactive games. Whatever the method, the outcome must be the same: engaging the audience's attention.

Theatricality may not be suitable for all occasions. It may be expected of professional presenters, but it may be frowned upon when you are presenting to the board of directors. Boredom is your enemy. Do what you can to banish it from your presentations forever.


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