How to Engage Your Audience

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One of the most common questions I hear from clients is, “How can I engage my audience better?”



And the simple answer is: You have to get clear on what “engagement” means first!



Here are three different ways I engaged three very different audiences for three different purposes over the last week.



First, as promised, this weekend I made my (chicken) “Parm with a Purpose,” in support of the Adoption Center, which helps older children in foster care to find their “forever families”. Here is an “action shot” of the process and the resulting platter (and yes, that’s my Saturday “off duty” look!)

Thanks to everyone else who joined me in the fundraiser for the Adoption Center, and I hope your reward was as tasty as ours!



Second, we’ll go from the dinner table to the virtual world. Yesterday I got to speak at the Podfest Global Summit yesterday, on “Finding Your (Podcaster’s) Voice: How to Speak so People Want to Listen.” Hundreds of people attended my 25-minute talk, moderated by Chris Krimistos, the (amazing) founder and organizer of Podfest. At the end Chris chimed in and said, “Laura, I think you’ve hit an engagement record: there are over 100 people actively participating in the chat!”



Engaging virtual audiences – especially on a platform where you won’t see or hear ANYONE except yourself as the presenter – is a unique challenge. That’s why in the course of my talk, I mixed as many modalities as possible with a variety of direct participatory activities to make it feel more like a workshop:


  • I used pictures and a short video clip
  • I asked people to brainstorm specific topics together in the chat window
  • I instructed people to do a few vocal exercises with me in real time (even though I couldn’t hear them to give feedback)
  • I demonstrated some microphone changes and had people share their reflex responses to how it changed their experience
  • I kept one eye on the chat window at all times and tried to respond to a few comments here and there throughout the program so the audience felt like I was “listening” to them and participating in more of a two-way discussion from start to finish.


No matter what your topic, there are always creative ways to engage a virtual audience in real time. If you haven’t registered for Podfest yet but want to catch any of the rest of the talks this week, please go to the Registration Page and be sure to use my personal PROMO CODE: INFLUENCE to get FREE access to the rest of the summit. You’ll help us achieve our goal of setting a Guinness World Record for virtual summit attendance!



Third, we’ll stay with engaging audiences in the virtual world but shift from synchronous (live, real-time) events to asynchronous (pre-recorded) events.



On this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence my guest is Chris Caine, the CEO for the Center of Global Enterprise (a global not-for-profit organization) and President and CEO of Mercator XXI, LLC. One important quality in a leader is the ability to see leadership potential in others, and Chris has this gift in spades. As a matter of fact, he’s the reason I’m here today!

I met Chris as a guest at a wedding reception back in 2008 when I was just finishing my PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and he was the vice president of government programs at IBM. We were seated at the same table, and got to chatting, and he politely asked about my research. I shared the gist of it, and he said, “You know, I’ve always had an instinct about that, but I never had the data to back it up. You have the data. Would you be interested in coming to IBM to do a training for my global leadership team?”



That was the moment that shifted my focus from the academic tenure track to the world of entrepreneurship. All because he saw something special in me.



That’s why I want to share his story with YOU, in hopes that he inspires you to see something in a new light as well.



BONUS Example: I hope by sharing my photos I’ve better engaged YOU in reading this email and mentally “digesting” (no parm-pun intended) how you can better engage your audience as well!



Here’s to your success,


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