Every time I ask a group to list the qualities of a successful speaker, one of the first things they say is “engaging.”
What do you think makes a speaker engaging? In my experience, I notice that engagement comes from taking specific actions, along with developing a combination of these four qualities:
1. They are happy to be there. They don’t just say they are, they truly appear to be in their element. They smile when appropriate. They greet you warmly. They are comfortable in their own skin. Not intimidated or nervous, they appear to be enjoying their moment to shine.
2. They are passionate about their topic. They aren’t just going through the motions; you can hear in their voices that they care about the subject matter. They speak more fluently because they are focused on the subject matter and care about what happens. They see the value of their knowledge.
3. They are curious about what you (the listener or audience) thinks. If they are speaking one-on-one, they probably ask for your thoughts, or gauge your reaction. When they are speaking to a group, they ask questions to confirm how the material is being understood or accepted. They are not thrown off course by a challenge or tough question.
4. They make an emotional connection. It might be by telling stories, using relatable humor, or sharing an honest reaction. Sometimes they engage in and lead a lively discussion. These things go a long way toward humanizing the presentation process.
In my experience, these qualities can help you create a mindset and attitude about the subject matter and the audience, that translates to being more engaging when you speak.
And…there are also many actions you can take to engage your listeners. Asking questions, leading discussions, getting them to open up or work in small groups.