Here’s a reverse audience involvement technique. It can help you easily shift the audience’s attention from you to a single element of your message. It’s also valuable in those occasionally hostile speaking situations where you might be verbally attacked by your listeners. It generates group discussion at the same time allows the audience to inject its point of view into the process.
Step 1. Write down the word or phrase you want the discussion to center on. Keep it as short as possible, but create a slide or put it on a flipchart.
Step 2. Join the audience by leaving the lectern or your side of the conference table and move to your listeners’ section. Preferably going to a spot behind the audience where you’re further removed from the issue.
Step 3. Get the group into a discussion of the issue by adopting and bringing up their point of view and by asking questions to generate comment. For example, you’re speaking to your staff about layoffs that have been announced throughout your company. It’s obvious that everyone there is concerned about their own job security and what will now be expected of them. The word you write down could be “layoff”, “unemployment”, “responsibility”, or “job security.”
You could get a discussion rolling by asking, “Joe, how will your area be affected by the layoffs?”, “Laura, have you ever been unemployed?” Such questions not only get the discussion off the ground, but they also expose hidden emotions and beliefs that need to be aired in order for your point of view to be heard and accepted.
This technique allows for greater audience objectivity. It also enhances your own understanding of the audience and how your message affects them.