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Light a fire under your audience

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

Most audience members plop down in their seats and shift into passivity mode. They may listen half-heartedly while they daydream or check their smartphone.

The next time you’re leading a meeting or giving a speech, turn your audience into participants. Let them steer the discussion in the direction they want to go.

Consider how Miki Agrawal, an entrepreneur who opened pizza restaurants in New York and Las Vegas, handled her public appearance to promote her new book. Instead of standing in front of the crowd and reading from her book, she turned the tables and said to the startled group, “Let’s play Inside the Author’s Studio.”

Borrowing the formula of the popular TV show Inside the Actor’s Studio, Agrawal invited the audience to play the role of James Lipton, the show’s host. They responded by asking the author a series of questions.

As a result, would-be spectators became interviewers. Their questions ranged from the tactical (“How did you get an agent?”) to the personal (“Did you ever have a dark night of the soul?”).

The lively exchange ensured that no one felt left out. Better yet, it infused the audience with positive feelings about Agrawal.

Near the end of the presentation, someone in the room turned to the au­­thor and said, “It is so encouraging to see how everyone is truly celebrating you in­­stead of being jealous of you.” The au­­di­­ence came away charmed by Agra­­wal’s willingness to listen and let the group take charge.

—Adapted from Got Your Attention?, Sam Horn, Berrett-Koehler.

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