Have you ever attended one of those classic sing alongs? Maybe it was The Sound of Music where you saw people dressed up as a chorus of Maria’s.
Or maybe it was The Rocky Horror Picture Show where you saw everyone dance and sing their heart out to songs they’ve memorized the lyrics to like the back of their hand. Maybe you were one of those people.
But our point is this: audience participation is a powerful thing. And it’s not just limited to films on a screen or auditions turning into call backs.
You may not think your corporate affair has room for audience participation, though you crave it so. But we here at Clean Comedians® have a couple of tricks up our sleeves to get your audience in the moment and willing to join in on the fun.
Ways to increase audience participation
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. We can’t give all of our secrets away! But here are some of our top ideas to get your audience members moving and grooving at your next corporate gathering.
#1. Treat audience members to a comedic performance
We all know that there’s nothing that brings a group of people together like laughing. After all, making people laugh is what we’ve dedicated our lives to!
And when it comes to participation, comedy is the greatest way to reel a person in. And get them involved in the conversation.
So why not bring in a virtual comedian to kick things off? Odds are your session may start off with a group full of strangers.
But by the time you reach the final applause, you’ll be looking at a room full of friends! When an audience shares an experience, they’re bound to something greater than themselves.
Not to sound cliche. But a solid performance really can change lives. (Yes, we are the superheroes you’ve been waiting for.)
#2. Engage participants with an event host
Let’s say you’ve got a group full of listeners. Nobody’s willing to talk and you have no idea how to get them to join in on the presented material.
First of all, that’s a tough crowd! And second of all, maybe you need a little back up too.
But you know what gets groups of listeners, readers, and viewers to offer up their opinions with abandon? A charismatic virtual event host!
It can be especially hard to get an audience to participate over a virtual platform. But the members of our team know how to control the atmosphere.
Rather than sit in that radio silence, a host can get listeners to communicate simply by developing a little rapport with them. Whether it’s an exercise or a conversation starter, they’ll always have a tool that gets your group to interact.
#3. Get the audience to answer questions
One of the easiest ways to boost audience participation is by asking your audience members questions. It can be as simple as a “Raise your hand if” series of queries.
Or it can be asking somebody out of the group to share a little something of themselves. Of course, team questions are always the easier way to get people to open up.
Especially in the beginning. Maybe later on in the performance, you can ask individual members questions once they feel comfortable enough to trust you.
Because that’s what makes up a lot of participation: trust. So it’s up to you to create an environment that’s welcoming and non-judgmental.
After all, how are you going to get those valuable insights from your audience? By scaring a response out of them?
No. It’s all about establishing curiosity and laying on some charm.
#4. Take a poll of the crowd
There are plenty of digital polling tools for you to use nowadays. And when you’re looking for participation from a virtual audience, this is a great way for them to see themselves represented on the screen.
Not only that. But you also get everyone’s participation at the very same time and some corporate entertainment to boot!
It’s one thing to have somebody from the team speak up and voice their opinion. It’s another thing to get everybody’s word in on the subject altogether.
And that in and of itself may even start a greater debate than you previously imagined. Besides, the viewers on the team won’t be able to help but join in on the subject.
Because their radio silence won’t do anything to justify why they submitted their answer in the first place. Don’t underestimate what can happen when folks see each other’s responses broadcast on the screen.
Everybody has something to say. And audience participation is all about getting them to say it.
#5. Get guests up and out of their seats
By now, the only audience participation we’ve been talking about has been vocal participation. No, not music-related vocal participation.
Although if you want to hand out sheet music and get everybody singing, go ahead and try! But instead, we’re talking about examples of audience participation exercises.
Like instead of watching a performance, maybe you can get people on the stage themselves. They might just be on stage to provide a physical example of the subject at hand.
Or, you might choose to boost audience participation by sending an icebreaker around. And getting audience members to speak with one another privately. (Especially since not everybody loves public speaking.)
Either way, any physical activity will boost audience participation, simply by virtue of the fact that they’re up. Sitting in an audience can sometimes feel stifling.
But getting up and moving around feels like gaining back some independence, don’t you think? Besides, you want your audience to stay limber both physically and mentally.
#6. Ask audiences to repeat back information
Okay, this might be one of the oldest tricks in the book. But do you remember your teacher having you repeat a word after them, for example?
It could have been any word, like the due date for an assignment. “Okay, class, and this is due when? Friday, that’s right…”
But it actually works! Not only in terms of audience participation.
But in making sure that your audience remembers key information that you don’t want them to forget. In media and other web companies, you’ll also find word repetition to be a strong strategy.
That way, customers can’t lose site (pun) of the very thing they’re supposed to remember. Of course, you can decide how you want to use this tool or not.
It can seem rather elementary. But there is still great value in it when you’re looking to increase audience participation.
Why is audience participation important?
By now, you’ve got a couple of audience participation tools in your back pocket. But let’s get to the point of why we’re here in the first place. Why is audience participation important?
Boosts audience engagement
This might seem obvious. But audience participation automatically boosts engagement because, well, the audience is engaged in participating.
So if you feel your audience is drifting or not engaged with the media, simply call upon these audience participation tricks. You may find it helps to reinvigorate them.
Helps audience members to retain information
Not everybody can retain information simply from a lecture. They have to be in participation with the material at hand.
Because when they are, they are more hands on with the material. And they’re more likely to remember key information later down the line.
Creates a relationship between audiences and hosts
What makes audience participation a unique and fun thing is the relationship that gets developed in the room. First, there’s the relationship between host and audience.
But then there’s the relationship between audience members. Audience participation can make for a shared experience that binds individuals together.
So it’s not just for the sake of your company’s success. It’s for the enrichment of your attendees.
Makes for engaging communication
Once everyone gets involved in audience participation, communication becomes a piece of cake. No, not literally. (Although we wish.)
But participating together breaks down barriers. And audience members are more likely to open up to each other and discuss their own experiences.
All in all, audience participation is about creating connections between individuals. So if your company has been in search of solidifying relationships, audience participation could be the way to go.
Bonus: How To Emcee An Event
Additional tips for audience participation
We said this wasn’t an exhaustive list. But we couldn’t let you get away without a couple more helpful tips! We’re just generous like that.
#1. Be clear with the audience
We mentioned earlier that it’s best to start out asking an entire group questions. Not singling out individuals.
And this all boils down to communicating with the audience and being clear with your expectations. Well, being flexible with your expectations, that is.
Because you never know what will come out of audience participation. Or what kind of responses you’ll get from audience members.
So if you’re on the search for specific answers, you might be disappointed. Instead, be open to what the audience is willing to give. Then, go from there.
#2. Allow the crowd time to come up with a response
We all know how frustrating it is when somebody asks you a question and doesn’t wait long enough for you to answer. So don’t do that to your audience either!
Not only will the audience have trust issues with you afterwards. But you’ll also get lost in a cycle of self-sabotage.
Audience participation requires a give and take from both parties. And while you’re asking them to give an answer, you also need to give them time.
We’re not saying you need to play Jeopardy! music to make sure they have enough time to respond. But just be cognizant of what you’re asking the audience to do and how long you’re giving the audience to do it.
#3. Use inclusive framing to reach everyone in the group
When you’re asking questions, make sure those questions are relatable to everyone. Not only will this make your audience participation far easier.
It will also help everyone build a sense of shared identity. Take this for example: “What was your most recent shopping experience like?”
By keeping “shopping” general, this question doesn’t specify what kind of shopping was made. Instead, it allows audience members to interpret the question in a way that rings true for them.
It could be grocery shopping, shoe shopping, any kind of shopping. So don’t limit your audience to a specific niche others may not feel included in.
#4. Acknowledge audience members who participate
It takes a lot of guts to get up in front of a crowd and share something. So when you have an audience member participate, thank them for their participation.
It’s an easy way to acknowledge how they have enhanced the experience of the gathering. And it also gets audience members feeling more comfortable sharing.
After all, there’s nothing worse than sharing something with a group then being told that was a stupid point. Not that you would say that.
But you want the audience to feel like they can share without shame or embarrassment. So just make the environment as welcoming as possible.
#5. Ask for feedback afterwards
When we said that audience participation was a give and take, we meant it. Because you’re relying on the audience to help you formulate the course of the evening.
And, like everything, there will always be things to improve upon. So ask your audience as active participants of the night what worked and what didn’t.
It could be through an email survey after the fact. Or it could be throughout private conversations as the evening winds down.
Either way, audience members will appreciate being asked for their feedback. Because they were the ones driving the evening forward.
Sure, you were steering the ship. But they were the engine pushing it through. Or something like that.
Really, you can choose any metaphor that you think suits this situation best. (See? Audience participation…)
Holding the room at attention
Your search for audience participation doesn’t have to be a long and arduous one. In fact, it can be rather fun and charming.
And if you decide to let us help you in the process, we can guarantee that it will absolutely be fun. And it will definitely be charming.
So get everyone on site to participate. And make it an evening they won’t forget!
Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular corporate entertainer, magician, and virtual speaker.