How to Engage the Audience at Your Next IT Conference Talk

By | May 21, 2016
Let’s be honest: it’s no easy task getting people excited and involved at an information technology conference talk. If you aren’t presenting a new and highly anticipated product, the crowd is not going to be instantly hanging on your every word. Talented public speaking comes into play, but even this won’t save a dull and dreary IT topic from being ignored by the audience in favor of beating the latest Angry Birds level. So what can IT professionals, who are more used to being behind a monitor than a microphone, do about it?

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Here are the best ways to engage an audience at an IT conference talk:

Opening move

Just like in movies, songs, and books, it’s important to start off with a bang. While smoke machines and the intro to the Europe hit “Final Countdown” aren’t completely out of the question, gimmicks like this are unlikely to impress industry professionals without meaty details following close behind. Opt for irony if insisting on pop music to grab immediate attention; if the talk is about how certain software is slow to enter into the tablet market, play the Hall & Oates hit “Out of Touch” when taking the stage.

Getting them involved

As previously mentioned, these tricks aren’t enough to keep an audience engaged for the duration. To achieve audience engagement, get them involved. One of the best methods is by utilizing a mobile event app to create your own interactive sequence for audience members to access via smartphone. The platform is open for a wide variety of scenarios, whether it’s real time polling, trivia, or even mini “games”. These are very successful at keeping the crowd focused on the topic at hand – literally.

Making it easy

If the network isn’t easy to get into, then many audience members won’t even bother with the aforementioned app idea. The technical behind the scenes details for involving the crowd with an app or other digital activity must be ironed out in test runs. Is guest access guaranteed, while security still in place? If we’re talking about a crowd full of IT higher ups, they’re going to be expecting reliable and secure connections, no question. Seconds count, so make sure the steps are seamless.

Staying on topic

It’s easy to get carried away on what seem like major implications and details to you but are not much more than dense and barely comprehensible concepts to an audience being introduced to a product or idea for the first time. Good public speakers come prepared with techniques for staying on topic. The go to is, of course, PowerPoint or another presentation program. However, just a handful of flashcards may be enough if the message is best made verbally.

Asking questions

Constantly ask the audience rhetorical questions. It’s human nature to consider answers whenever being asked a question, which therefore leads to the listener being focused on the topic at hand. It’s also a good idea to ask actual questions, however, it’s best to keep possible answers binary to prevent a shouting match from occurring.

Answering them too

Take time to take questions, both midway through the talk and at the end. Practice your planned talk in front of friends and family and keep track of common questions in order to have swift and succinct replies when the game goes live. You can also take time at the beginning to answer any questions, however, this may disrupt the flow of an inexperienced public speaker.

Getting people pumped about an IT topic – even if the audience consists of nothing but IT professionals – is no simple feat for even the most talented of public speakers. However, there are a few tactics which when reasonably applied can spice up an IT conference talk, making the message stick with the crowd long after the speaker leaves the stage.