Here’s a framework on how to engage your audience

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Here’s a framework on how to engage your audience

Monotony causes audiences to tune out. Movement forces audiences to become alert. – Wes Kao

Nobody owes you their attention. It’s your responsibility to keep your audience engaged. Here’s a framework for how to do it:
These days, everyone is an instructor. Whether managing a team, teaching a course, or selling a product, you have to teach. When your audience is awake & alert: ✅ You get your message across ✅ You increase your impact ✅ You show your value-add
Your goal is student transformation. To achieve it, you have to be instructor AND entertainer. 😴 If you’re 90% instructor, you’re a college professor. 🤡 If you’re 90% entertainer, you’re a BuzzFeed video. You should aim for 50% instructor, 50% entertainer.
Monotony causes audiences to tune out. Movement forces audiences to become alert. This is why it’s so excruciating to sit still & be talked at on a Zoom call for an hour straight. It’s mind-numbing.
Examples of state changes include: • Q&A • Breakout rooms • Group discussions • Asking students to comment • Switching speakers • Cracking a joke & adding humor • Switching from screen share to gallery view
Here’s another way to think about it: With 5 people, you can have a conversation. With 100, you can’t. Suddenly, you can’t read the room. You can’t easily tell what they’re thinking or use your charisma to fill gaps.
2. Fight the urge to tell. Embrace the Socratic method and ask instead. When a student approaches you with a question, throw it back at them. Give them a chance to think rigorously. Instead of answering right away, say: “What do you think? How would you tackle this?”
3. Add interactivity. When I ask students of CBCs what they want more of, they rarely say “more lectures.” Instead they say “I wish there were more chances to meet students, get feedback, and do role playing exercises.” When in doubt, add more interactivity. Not more content.
4. Aim for a participatory experience in the first 5-10 mins. Don’t start off talking about your background for 20 mins (and immediately put everyone to sleep). Set the tone for participants that this is an active experience worth attending live. And worth staying awake for.
5. Speed up the perceived pace of the live lecture. With Zoom lectures, it’s better to have 5 slides with 1 point on each, than 1 slide with 5 points on it. Our eyes are used to seeing movement on screens. TV producers know this. Play into it.
Before-and-after: The State Change Method in practice. 🚫 Before: You: “Here’s why X is important. Reason 1, 2, 3.” Students: Silence. Quiet because they’re intensely focused… or asleep? Can’t tell.
✅ After: You: “Why do you all think X is important?” Students: Reason 1! Student: Reason 2! Student: Reason 3! You: Exactly, these are all excellent reasons. [Next slide that shows your reasons 1, 2, 3.]
Notice in the example above, you still have a slide that shows reason 1, 2, 3. This is important–in the event students don’t respond, you still have content ready. It gives you a chance to share your point of view on the answer.
In the example above, we simply added one extra step: 💡 You changed your statement into a question. This invites students to think for themselves–and gets them talking. Instead of only hearing your voice, your students can chime in & that offers a state change.
State changes are your friend. Embrace them–get away from you being the only voice students hear. Take your lecture slides and challenge yourself to add as many state changes as possible. Your student’s eyes will light up.
If you enjoyed this, I write threads dissecting communication, entrepreneurship, education, and marketing every week. Follow me @wes_kao to catch them in your feed.

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