How to Engage an Audience: My 3-Step Formula

Oct 13, 2016 | Business, Family, Personal Growth

You may not view yourself as someone who has an audience, but no matter what you do for a living, you probably do!

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have the attention of more than one person you are trying to influence, you have an audience.

Are you a mom or dad? Your family is an audience.

Have a job? Your co-workers are an audience.

Own a business? Your employees and customers are audiences.

The list goes on…

Believe it or not, I used to be a comedian—a job where the audience is obviously extremely important. Early on, I had to ask myself questions like:

  • What makes certain entertainers and speakers the best?
  • Do some have it and some don’t?
  • What exactly is “it”?
  • Is there some specific strategy that some use and the rest don’t know?

I’ve seen comedians with awesome material get heckled the entire time they were on stage, comedians with just decent material get standing ovations, and everything in between.

What is it that causes an audience to sit on the edge of their seats—anxiously waiting for every punchline when certain comedians are onstage?

After observing tons of performances (and doing tons of my own), I finally found the answer. There is a formula for creating that unique buzz from the audience—whether you are a comedian, writer, speaker, or anyone else who has an audience (and remember, we all have audiences).

The Formula for Engaging Any Audience

1. You want the audience to view you as a friend.

When I observed other comedians, I noticed that the way the audience viewed them was VITAL to their level of success.

Comedians with more hecklers were seen by the audience as kind of arrogant (not that they necessarily were). It was almost as if the audience thought they were a “know it all” and seemed less likely to relax and laugh because of it.

On the other hand, the best comedians were seen by the audience as a buddy. In their view, the comedian was nice, friendly, and relatable.

After that observation, I focused on making friends with the audience—and the results were phenomenal!

People love to be around friendly, relatable people. Just think about it, do you like to be around a “know it all”? No one else does either.

If you consider a situation from your audience’s point of view and make an effort to be friends with them, you will win their hearts.

2. Focus on keeping their attention.

One time during one of my performances, there was a really loud noise in the background. I’m not really sure what it was—maybe someone dropped something—but regardless, after the noise, I felt as though the crowd wasn’t engaged during the rest of my performance. I had lost the audience.

Even though I may have had them engaged before the distraction, I didn’t get them refocused, and lost command of the room.

You must ACTIVELY keep your audience engaged the whole time you are communicating with them.

After that particular performance, I decided to do two things completely different:

  1. I made a list of funny responses to every distraction I could think of to reel my audience back in.
  2. I decided to actually leave the stage and walk around in the audience.

Both these decisions made massive differences.

I began to take command of the room by actively engaging the audience—and soon, I was keeping that command until the final moments of my performance.

Anticipate potential distractions before they happen, and plan how you will counter if they do.


3. Communicate “what’s in it for them.”

When it comes to reading, watching, or listening, we only pay attention to things that interest, affect, or benefit us.

Would you pay attention to something in which you are not interested? Of course not!

That’s why it is so important to make sure your audience knows exactly what they will get from you.

If you simply tell them—they will show interest.

Instead of focusing on what you want from the audience, ask yourself beforehand what they are going to get from you.

Attention and influence will rarely be given to you for simply showing up. Always keep “what’s in it for them” in the top of your mind. Communicate that value to your audience upfront. Not only will it captivate them, it will also focus your message around what matters most.

Be the Leader Your Audience Is Looking For

The best communicators have mastered this formula. If you want to make an impact, you must learn to engage and interest your audience.

Follow this formula and you will take command.


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