Voilà Coaching

Engagement is Participation

Colorful crumpled adhesive notes with smiling faces.

Colorful crumpled adhesive notes with smiling faces.

In one of my training sessions I was approached by a participant. In the session I had asked what comes to mind when I say the buzz word in the phrase, “engaging your customer”. She was struck by this as it truly is important to engage, but what does that really mean?

I asked her to really think about engagement and what it is,  how you know when you have it, and what you should be looking for when seeking engagement with your audience.

Ultimately you find engagement in participation. So the real question is, “Is my customer participating in this interaction?”

When presenting you have to ask yourself if your audience is participating in or just receiving your message. This is an important distinction when it comes to engagement, but it can be tricky because participation is necessarily direct feedback. Having this distinction allows us to be more intentional with how we present.

How do we get our audience to be more engaged and participate?

First of all, know that it is the presenter’s responsibility to make that happen. It’s all about the environment you create, and the space that you hold for this to happen. In order to accomplish this you must:

Ask Questions:

Some of these will actually spur some discussion, while others will be simply for participants to ponder. When I think about my answer to a question in my head, I am engaging with the presenter. Just not out loud.

Create opportunities to interact

Get them to interact with you the presenter, with the material, with each other.

Get them to share their questions

What do they think about this? What seems easy about this new approach? What seems like it will be hard?


If the purpose of your presentation is to learn a new skill, or use a new tool, get them to practice it. Try it on. Get feedback, and give each other feedback.

There are many benefits of audience participation:

  • They’ll let you know if they get it
  • It increases their retention
  • It’s way more fun for you and for them
  • Your presentation will be more memorable

Knowing that Engagement is Participation makes it easier to strive for Engagement. Now, you can measure how much they are participating.  Are they with you?

One caution: a quiet participant is not necessarily disengaged. More on that next time.

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