Be interactive and get them all involved by Mark Davis

Be interactive and get them all involved

I’ve saved my number one tip for a trainer to near the end of this series, because I have a lot to say about it.

If you do nothing  else… Get the audience involved!

Let me explain why a one-way training session is never going to be as powerful as getting your students interacting with you.

When you think of professional public speakers, you also think of speech writers. They get written by one person then read out loud word for word by someone else. Politicians read something that was prepared for them days or even weeks in advance. TV news anchors read a teleprompter so  they  can’t make mistakes – every word has been approved by management so it will maintain the image of the network and keep advertisers happy.

Adults realize that reading is going to be a part of their learning when they’re young, and it continues through life. Textbooks, Training workbooks, DVD instruction manuals are all there to read.

They don’t always enjoy it, and there’s a simple reason why. Kids don’t like reading. Unless you can find a great way to get the information to them so they interact with it and get involved in the book.

So because getting kids to read can be difficult, In the 1970’s  a range of  books came out. They revolutionized the young reader market and went in a direction that no-one had gone before. Maybe you remember them? We’ll get to them in a minute.

The concept of reading or learning.

As a writer, I know the goal is to get people to read your entire book. It  sounds like a simple enough concept. That’s why as writers we work so hard to make our books interesting. We make the first few chapters our best, and give our all to make them valuable, and encourage reading it all.

But with kids, entertainment is pretty much the number one goal. Get them interested because its funny. Or because its all about action. Or young love. Or Vampires. Or magic.

When you run out of books – say a series only has 7 books and they’ve read them all, where do you go?

You can’t hand most 10 year-olds a 600 page Harry Potter book, and they might not care about reading “Twilight” yet.

That’s where this 1970’s range books arrived just in time for me to fall in love even more with reading. Stories had been written that were compelling for  young boys and girls alike.

Choose Your  Own Adventure.

Have you ever read a book and wished that it had an alternate ending? Well imagine a book with 10 different endings. And each ending depends on a decision  you make.

You’re at the edge of the cliff

  1. If you jump off into the river below, turn to page 87

  2. If you start climbing down the cliff, turn to page 74

These books gave control of the action (adventure) to the young reader. And started a multi-million dollar market for interactive  books  worldwide. Where else could you read a book 10 times and have a different story every time! Of course the best part of the book was – you were the star. So you were not just reading, you were LIVING the book! Genius!

In the early days of computer games, you could play on your black and white TV with a simple controller, usually a joystick or a wheel. They  had  simple  driving games, Pong, and eventually Space Invaders and PacMan. You could practice at home if you had a console, then go to public places on machines where others could watch and be amazed at your  skill.

But they were primarily one-person games, or you could alternate turns in  the same game. The games had a pattern, and if your memory was good enough you could plan your strategy and be patient to beat your opponents score.

Then some games got clever and let you play against someone in real time. Mortal Combat, boxing, punching, kicking and fighting games had two players at the console. Bigger and bigger crowds would gather as the winner takes all process let teenagers spend their days at the arcade. Of course they refined their skill in front of an audience.  And spent a lot of money!

But when home consoles came in with Nintendo 64, and Atari, people had to play by themselves, or with one other person. Usually a younger brother or sister unless a friend came over to play.

And kids got bored once they mastered the game through endless repetitions, or had no worthy opponents remaining.

In the 2000’s, XBOX came out with the ability to play online, over  the internet, with people anywhere in the world. XBOX Online plugged into your home internet, and you could compete with people around the world. Nintendo’s Wii and PlayStation soon followed. They  allowed you to collaborate in multi-player combat mission games, or race each other in Mario  Kart.

This seamless transition to interactivity with total strangers bonded by a love of a game, turned the games industry into a multi-billion dollar industry. Your home is now linked to the world of people just like you and you can play …. Forever.

Before we talk about how you can use this principle in your trainings, here’s some examples from TV.

Big Brother

More than 10 years ago, a hand-picked group of strangers were flung into a house together. 24/7 the public was able to watch their every move through cameras installed around the house. Sleeping, eating, showering and reading, playing games and interacting with each other. Sound boring?

The contestants were deliberately chosen for their personalities which would conflict with some and  attracted to others.

Mostly they were extroverts happy to show themselves to the world. And watch the world did. Big Brother became a ratings success and the TV concept duplicated around the world for more than ten years in dozens of countries.

The Amazing Race

A cancer survivor who had battled and survived. Then he realized that his bucket list of places to go and things to do was still long, went out and did those things. After achieving his list, he created a mini-version of this as a competition. He got sponsors, a TV crew, and offered the chance for 12 teams of 2 people to race around the world. To do some of the bucket list challenges he himself had done, and for the thrill of competition – one couple would win a million dollars. Phil Keoghan’s bucket list has never been so public and adopted by others so successfully. The concept has continued expanding around the world and has been adapted by companies wanting a challenge of their own on a local scale.


Talent shows have always been popular. Judges in small towns across the country have discovered incredible talent that have become the musicians we know and love today. But when you have 50,000 people  audition  for  200 places, and televise the auditions its a new world. The whole auditioning and callback process live on TV, with 3 judges giving their  support  and  acid  feedback.  We can all see the reactions of the aspiring artist , and then we the public get to vote on who goes further in the competition….  We’re hooked.

Reality TV has changed our lives. Big Brother, The Amazing Race, and  American Idol (X Factor, Australia’s got Talent, The Voice). They all get  the  concept of involvement or interaction with their audience.

In Big Brother the voyeuristic audience at home made their judgments, and voted on who would stay and who would go from the house. Based on who they liked. Who they felt a connection to. Who they felt they would be friends  with.

In the Amazing Race, the competitors stimulated the travel dreams  of millions of TV watchers. We all wished we could make wine in Tuscany, go Zip-lining in the Amazon, Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge or fly away anywhere in a plane!

Talent shows allow the people at home to experience amazing first time performances. And then give direct support with Twitter and text messages to vote for their favorites. These shows helped strangers one day become stars then next. When you hear them on the radio the day after they won the competition you know the format works.

Reality TV brought interaction to our lives through our nature to compete, barrack for our favorites, and the power of our vote.

Getting involved with your audience is something that the TV producers understood. That the authors of the Choose Your Own Adventure books understood. That the Computer Games industry understood.

So you need to understand it too, and integrate it into your training strategy.

If you don’t, people will see you more as a lecturer, and less of a trainer. This principle is so important, that if you skipped this chapter, I think your career as a trainer will be short.

When you lead a training session, there can be the feeling that you are the only one there.

Having great stories and being enthusiastic, passionate, and entertaining is great. But if it’s all about you, your audience will get bored.

It’s important for you to look at your training plan or session plan and involve your audience. Every part can include a level of interactivity or audience involvement.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can get your crowd “in” to your training and not just passively listening.


In my first book (Master the Art of Public Volume 1) we talked about the  many ways that you can use questions in a presentation. I want you now to think about specific strategic questions that will aid you in getting your audience involved.

Because when they’re involved, they are more alert. More interested. And when people from the audience are participating, no-one wants to miss out.

It takes the pressure off everyone having to answer,  but for variety,  has people   in the training group doing some of the talking, not just the trainer.

Yes or No.

Questions that get one of two answers  are  useful  in  many  ways. Sometimes you want to build your presentation up to  get  a  series  of  agreements.  Or  negative agreements.

“You can see the benefit of saving $1138 per year in electricity?” “Does it make sense to keep the solar panels on your roof active?” “So will we increase the number of panels to save you even more?”

All these have a logical “Yes” to them. This builds your momentum in a sales pitch, or in getting agreement to the final decision.

You don’t always get the sale on the first Yes.  Cementing in the agreement can be a powerful sales tool.

If you get a Yes it can also verify that people are listening and what you are saying is making sense.

If things don’t make sense, you confuse them or are unclear, and they don’t continue to listen. Don’t go past confusion, or you will never get the outcome you desire.

“Do you like looking at how much money is in your bank right now?” No

No can be the perfect response in a talk. You don’t always need “Yes”  to get to a positive outcome. There are a lot of people that say negative responses from your audience lead to poor results. But that is not my experience. No is a great reminder to them of what they are thinking. And if they are thinking it, I believe you should hear it from them. Thoughts lead to words, and when your audience speaks them they are more powerful than just thinking them.Thoughts, Words, Actions. You want the action? Then verbalize the thought.

You must remember that questions are a specific tool. And should only be used at certain times.

Don’t annoy your audience with 9 questions in a row that demand a “Yes”.

That’s manipulation.

Don’t make them answer yes if they don’t naturally do it. They will be  thinking it. Learn a better way to ask your question so you can get them involved.


While used most commonly in training presentations, the use of an activity in a talk can be good almost any time.

The activity needs to be relevant to the topic, and short enough that you get your point, and can move on.

When you engage your audience in an activity, they are  suddenly  out  of ‘book world’ and into the “real world” where the best learning can take place.

  • Mark Davis

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