Just ask her pop.     (Be patient;  I’ll tell you about my daughter in a second.)

A while back I saw my old friend and fellow Colorado speaker Steve Spangler tear up a group of 100 teachers.  And by tear up I mean he was terrific… the audience loved him.

Steve and I have been friends since high school — which is fun partly because I’ve seen him grow from just a talented guy to a famous talented guy.

I stopped by to see one of his projects in person:  he invites teachers to come to his Science in the Rockies program where he teaches them science tips and tricks, all backed by curriculum they’ll incorporate in the classroom.  Sounds good to me.

But seeing the smiles on these teachers faces AS they learned was a good reminder of the importance of engaging an audience.  They weren’t sitting taking notes:  they were actively participating, laughing, talking to each other and to Steve.

It was a great reminder that people — even audiences — can multi-task.  You might incorrectly connect a silent audience staring at the presenter with an audience that gives a darn.  They might be deeply engaged…. or they might be quietly going over their shopping list in their heads.

Steve calls it “hands-on science.”  His audiences learn AND have fun.  (And you can bet your bottom dollar that because they are having fun, they retain more.)  But professional speakers of all types — motivational, funny, whatever! — can learn from this Colorado speaker.

Our audiences can and should be engaged.  They should be laughing.  They should be saying to their neighbor, “Hey!  That’s cool!”  And at least some of the time they should be actively playing with some cool toy or thing.  [Provided there is a concrete connection between the activity and the desired outcomes of the meeting planner.]

Why is engagement so important for speakers  — and meeting planners looking to hire a speaker?   Because, my friends, it’s 2009.  Audiences just won’t sit still like they used to.  In these days were distractions are plentiful (iPhones, Blackberries, wireless in convention hotels) and ROI needs to be extremely high, nobody can afford to plop a mediocre speaker in front of an audience who just barely cares enough to sit there.

Meeting planners demand results;  results demand engagement.

My point? If you need a speaker ask this question:  What specific activities will you do to physically engage my audience, and how to you plan to connect that engagement to what I’m trying to accomplish at the meeting.

Steve makes it work at his teacher boot camps;   good speakers make it work in the corporate and association world.

Now… my daughter. I brought my 12 year old along to see my friend in front of an audience.  Steve brought her up on stage to demonstrate to the teachers how they might teach a kid.  (Lucky Steve, I basically brought along a prop.)   The teachers had fun.  But my daughter had a BLAST!     (And best of all, Steve sent her home with an armload of goodies.)

She may not be the best scientist in Colorado… but by my eyes she’s the cutest.   (Even when Steve startled her with some electric current.)

Need an engaging funny motivational speaker?  Go to the contact page now.

Thanks Steve.  It was a great day.  [Note to readers:   don’t go to Steve’s store.  You’ll end up spending way too much time looking at all the cool stuff and you’ll end up buying stuff.   Seriously.  Don’t do it.]

Brad Montgomery
Father of a Scientist, Colorado Speaker, Fan of Steve Spangler

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