Seven Timeless Steps to Engage Your Audience

By Jackson Sveen

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Engage the AudienceWhen you invite the audience to connect in an interesting and authentic way, they will take you up on it. They insist on your expertise, but they will engage deeply if you understand these 6 timeless steps:


The first couple of minutes of your presentation telegraph one of two messages to the audience: (1) this sounds different or interesting; or (2) this sounds like the last boring presentation.

The quest is to be immediately interesting. If you use up your open on worn-out phrases and getting started, we will begin to hear, “Blah, blah, blah.”

Ten-Minute Rule

If you speak for twenty or more minutes, divide your presentation into ten-minute segments. Researchers have known for years that the brain checks out after ten minutes of data. If you don’t break the pattern by providing an example or story, you’ll lose the audience.

Core Concepts

In each ten-minute segment, cover a powerful core concept in the first minute. We’re better at seeing the bigger picture before the detail.

Compelling Facts

Use seven to eight minutes in the segment to provide the most essential, compelling facts around that single concept. Mind you, we don’t want the minutia. We want the key points.


At the end of each ten-minute segment, just before the audience’s attention slips away, grab it back with a one-to-two-minute storybite. Anecdotes, quotes, metaphors, analogies, and illustrations renew the audience’s attention.


One of the worst mistakes speakers make is to close with something like, “So—that’s about it—any questions?” This drains all the energy out of the room, and people dive toward the door. Signing off with Q&A can be a lackluster way to send listeners out. To engage listeners, take on the role of the one who asks questions. (Examples: What am I missing here? How can we improve on this approach?)


The close should bring the energy up in the room like the final note of a symphony. You can re-emphasize the big idea or main message of your presentation. You might make a deeper point with a story.

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