“WTF is experiential speaking?”

Published by Jackie Barrie on

Question“WTF is experiential speaking?”

That’s what someone asked me recently. So here’s my answer.

Experiences are what life is all about. Experiential learning is ‘a thing’. It’s given rise to experiential training and experiential marketing.

So why not experiential speaking too?

Of course, all speakers, presenters and trainers like to think they give their audience an experience. Hopefully, a good one. Hopefully, one they will remember. Hopefully, one they will learn from.

So what makes an experiential speaker different?

A conference keynote speaker might use their storytelling skills to create a good audience experience. Perhaps they motivate people through the power of their words. Perhaps they tell a tale of tragedy to triumph. Or perhaps they share fascinating, unique and compelling content.

Those people don’t need to use any icebreakers, energisers or games from the main stage if they don’t want to.

Then there are those keynote speakers who engage and enrapture the audience through their talent. Perhaps they perform entertaining magic tricks or get everyone drumming.

Those speakers are already experiential, so they don’t need to do anything else to enhance their performance.

Then there’s the rest of us.

We’re ordinary people with an important message to share. We speak, we present, we train and we facilitate. But we haven’t climbed Kilimanjaro, we haven’t overcome disaster, and we don’t have any special performance talent. So we can’t inspire our audiences like that.

Speakers like us might not be invited to appear on the main stage at a global conference. Instead, we deliver our content during breakout sessions in smaller rooms, and run training workshops and seminars*.

But it’s important for us to give our audiences a good experience too.

We’re living in a world where standing up and talking in front of a PowerPoint slideshow just isn’t enough. Neither is asking for a show of hands, or facilitating a paired sharing session, or including a Q&A, and calling that ‘audience participation’. People today expect – and deserve – more.

That’s why I’ve collated some of the most effective icebreakers, energisers and games I’ve used over the years into my new Experiential Speaking book for speakers and trainers.

The activities you include shouldn’t be random and pointless just for the sake of enhancing the ‘experience’. (I can’t stress that enough.) Whatever you make the audience do should help attendees understand your core message more clearly and remember it for longer.

All the things I recommend work at a deeper level to achieve that.

They’re easy. They’re designed so that anyone can do them. The only things you might need are space, and sometimes pen and paper. Some involve a bit of preparation. Most require you to have a playful mindset. Often, you don’t even need those.

When done right, icebreakers, energisers and games engage the audience beyond passive sitting and listening. And that means they’ll learn more – which means you’re more likely to impress your clients and be invited back.

* Of course, the big and talented keynote speakers often do this too – in which case, the ideas in my book become relevant to them too.

Image by Sophie Janotta from Pixabay


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