Engage Your Audience: Alternatives to Lecture

Whether you are presenting or training, long lectures can be a drag. To engage your audience, to add life to your presentations, and to increase recall, consider these ways to get information across without lecturing.

  1. Demonstration. Show, doengagingn’t tell, or show and tell. Bring in the item you are discussing and pass it around. Have audience members get involved in the demonstration.
  2. Hands on practice. Don’t call it a role play, but that’s what it is. Get people to try out new behaviors on the spot. Make it fun and light, and never put someone on the spot or embarrass them.
  3. Fill in the blanks handouts. This can help learners engage with the content in another way besides listening.
  4. Quiz, test or problem to be solved. Make it challenging but not frustrating. Put a little competition into it. Award fun prizes.
  5. Silent brainstorming or silent voting. Use a show of hands, ideas written on sticky notes, or votes written on a postcard.
  6. Guest speaker or panel discussion. These can be live or on video, but it can be helpful to hear someone else speaking. A video can play a similar role, but be sure it is relevant and up-to-date.
  7. Contest or scavenger hunt. Healthy competition can create fun and engagement. Great for information-heavy content, new employee orientation, team building.
  8. Gallery crawl. You post several flipcharts and audience moves from flip chart to flip chart, capturing their ideas. Gets them out of their chairs. A good way to gather and record a lot of information quickly. You can even play music while they work. At the end, snap pictures of the flipcharts to record the ideas.
  9. Breakout session. Periodically have pairs or small groups discuss what they have heard, how it will impact them, or have them answer a question. Mix up the groups frequently. You can even have them “walk and talk,” especially late in a long day.

Be creative! How many ways can you discover to get information across without long lectures?


Author Gail Zack Anderson, founder of Applause, Inc. is a Twin Cities-based consultant who provides coaching and workshops for effective presentations, facilitation skills for trainers and subject matter experts, and positive communication skills for everyone.  She can be reached at gza@applauseinc.net.

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