Engaging Your Audience

Ideas from Dave Burgess Teach Like a Pirate

Ideas for Engaging Your Audience...

Kinesthetic Hook

Thanks to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I incorporate movement?

2. Can we throw something, roll something, or catch something as a group?

3. Can we get up and act something out?

4. Can we incorporate gestures?

5. Can we turn the room into a giant opinion meter and have the audience move to one side or the other based on the statement?

6. Can I change the structure of the presentation from a "sit and get" to a walk around presentation?

The People Prop Hook

Thanks to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I use my audience as props, inanimate objects, or concepts?

2. Can we create a human graph, chart, or equation?

3. Can the audience be assigned a specific step?

4. Can 1/2 the audience be props and the other 1/2 prop movers?

The Safari Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I get my audience outside my four walls for the presentation?

2. Can I "hide" key items outside the class for the audience to "discover"?

3. Could we leave the campus to the ultimate location to teach the material?

The Picasso Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I incorporate art into this lesson?

2. What can my audience draw or make that would help them understand or retain the information?

3. Can the audience make a non-linguistic representation of the material?

Dance and Drama Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. Can I provide opportunities for my audience to do a skit or videos related to what we are learning?

2. Can they learn and perform a relevant dance?

3. Can they impersonate key people from history in a panel discussion or interview?

The Mystery Bag Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. Can I have a closed box or package in the front of the room?

2. Can I cut a hole in a box where the audience can reach inside and feel content?

3. Can I provide hints and open the floor for guesses?

4. What can I put inside the mystery box that ties to the presentation?

The Mission Impossible Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I design the presentation so that the audience is trying to solve a mystery?

2. How can I incorporate clues that can be decoded by learning or researching the topic?

3. How can I provide a treasure map or send the audience on a scavenger hunt?

4. What fictitious character or role can the audience play?

The Reality TV Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I design my presentation to take advantage of the popular TV shows?

2. Can I create a Survivor-style challenge and divide the audience into tribes?

3. Can this be configured as an Amazing Race partner lesson?

4. How can I incorporate a Fear Factor type of challenge?

The Opportunistic Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. What current events can I include?

2. Is there a hot topic in the news or at school that I can use to capture the audience attention?

3. How can I incorporate popular trends, fads, TV shows, and movies in order to make the topic more relevant and engaging?

Interior Design Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I transform the room to create the ultimate atmosphere for the presentation?

2. How can I change the lighting for mood?

3. Can I rearrange the desks for the presentation to be most effective?

The Board Message

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. What can I write on the board, or display on the screen, that will immediately spark curiosity and interest?

2. What type of message will create a buzz?

3. What can I write that will be intriguing and mysterious and will compel my audience to ask questions?

4. Can I use a QR code?

5. Can I have an intriguing image projected that will tie into my content?

The Costume Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. What can I wear as an outfit or costume for the presentation?

2. Is there an exciting character/person I can impersonate?

3. Can I invent a superhero or super villain for the topic?

4. What accessory can I wear to enhance my presentation?

The Technology Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I take advantage of the fact that most phones have a camera, video?

2. How can we use the Internet?

3. How can we create something digitally?

4. How can we use Social Media?

5. How can technology help connect my audience to people from all over the world to gain global perspective?

6. How can I use the latest apps to create a more powerful and interactive lesson?

The Contest Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I include a contest into my presentation to build motivation?

2. What type of review game can I design to ramp up the entertainment level?

3. What kind of audience challenge can we create?

The Chef Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I enhance the presentation by adding food or drinks?

2. Can I cook something for the audience?

3. What type of food would be a perfect match for the presentation?

4. How can I use food or drinks to demonstrate a point, serve as an incentive, or help create a positive atmosphere?

The Involved Audience Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I consistently keep the audience feeling involved?

2. Can I cue the audience to make certain motions or sounds at key points?

3. Can I incorporate call and response into the presentation?

4. Can I bring audience members to the front as volunteers?

The Mozart Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I use music to aid my presentation?

2. What would be the perfect song or type of music to create the right mood?

3. What songs have lyrics that relate to this lesson?

4. How can I most effectively use music as they enter the room?

5. Can I allow my audience to create a song/rap that demonstrates their understanding?

Quote an Influential Person

"One of the easiest ways to start a presentation is to quote an influential person. In these cases, it’s best to use a pithy, short and relevant quote to catch your audience’s attention."


The Craft Store Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I incorporate a craft into the presentation?

2. What can the audience make that relates to the presentation?

3. Can I provide basic supplies and give them an open-ended creative project and turn them loose?

The Hobby Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I incorporate hobbies and outside interests of my audience into the material (find out their hobbies and interests first)?

2. How can I harness the power of connecting my content to what they are already interested in (find out their passions first)?

Be Authentic

"Another way to draw your audience into your own world is to tell a revealing personal story. This is certainly not easy but, when done right, can quickly spark interest in your topic and build an emotional connection between you and your audience.

In Brene Brown’s talk on confronting shame, she begins by admitting that she felt embarrassed over the revelations she had made in her massively popular TED talk on embracing vulnerability."


Real-World Application Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I show my audience why learning the content is important in the real world?

2. How will they apply this in their own life?

3. Can they create something "real" that will be more than a classroom project but actually allow them to interact with the world in an authentic way?

Use a Game-Inspired Tactic

"As gamification has shown, you don't have to create a full-blown game to engage people. Incorporating simple aspects of games (especially video games) can be very effective. For example, boost your quiz by keeping score and providing a leaderboard. Or pump up your brainstorming exercise by letting people vote on their favorite three ideas."

Life-Changing Hook

Thank to Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate:

1. How can I use this presentation to deliver an inspirational message?

2. What type of life-changing lesson can be incorporated into the content?

3. What type of essential questions can I ask that allow students the opportunity for personal reflection and growth?


"Difficult to pull off, in the right hands it's a mixture of a provocative statement and a surprise, wrapped together and delivered well."



Sometimes, when listening to someone talk for long periods of time, it helps to have something else to draw your attention. While images are great, including music can really help stimulate an audience and set the mood. Dean Burnett talks about why this happens: “[Music] provides non-invasive noise and pleasurable feelings, to effectively neutralize the unconscious attention system’s ability to distract us.” Essentially, music is entertaining enough that, when in the background, can keep us focused on otherwise un-entertaining things. Take, for example, this valedictorian’s speech. While peppered with humor and stories of his time through high school, he uses background music to help keep people’s attention—in fact, this is specifically stated to be his reason for including music, humorously quipping about giving the audience something to listen to while they “zone out” of his speech. Whether incorporated into individual slides, in a video, done live, or with a music-playing device nearby, this creative presentation idea can be a great way to enhance the quality of your speech or talk.

Use Props

Using props can quickly turn a run-of-the-mill presentation into a unique, interactive experience. Kenny Nguyen demonstrates this well. In his talk he often refers to the “sword of yes” and “shield of no.” Naturally he picks up a sword and shield from the table to help demonstrate his points. Choosing similar props can help you really illustrate your points—and make it that much more entertaining, too.

Incorporate Stories

Stories resonate with people. Whether you are using a case study or real life example, stories bring people to your world and gets them further incorporated into your presentation. The very best way to capture an audience and get them truly engaged. Simply say, “Let me tell you a story.”

Make it a Game

If you can teach or reinforce a concept through a game, more people will remember and understand.

Break the Ice

"Each of your audience members comes to your presentation in a completely different mood. A simple ice-breaker can put everyone on the same level and energize them for your presentation. Get your audience to do a simple exercise to reset their minds and refocus on your talk. For example, ask people to stand up and introduce themselves to their neighbors, or have them identify two or three questions they would like to hear addressed during your presentation. By starting with an ice-breaker, you show your audience that your talk will be interactive and require their participation."


Add Videos

"With over 6 billion hours of video being watched each month on YouTube alone, it’s hard to believe that still so few presenters use them in their presentations. Videos are a great tool when it comes to giving an engaging presentation. Videos can evoke emotions in an audience that could be otherwise quite difficult to elicit. Find the clip that will put your audience in the right mood and that reinforces your story. With the seamless integration of YouTube videos in Prezi, there is no excuse for not using them."


Poll the Audience

"Live polls are an incredibly effective tool for instantly engaging with your audience. Unlike rhetorical questions, polls encourage participants to think not only about your questions but also about their answers. Moreover, live polls help create mental breaks, so your audience can regain attention and stay focused throughout your presentation. By including everyone in answering the question, you also create a group experience that leaves the audience feeling like they all have been part your presentation. With sli.do, you can integrate live polls seamlessly into your prezis and engage the participants without the need to switch between screens or applications."


Share the Glory

"Don’t steal all the glory for yourself. Share the stage with other presenters or the audience members to help you narrate the story and make the whole presentation more interactive. Steve Jobs never pulled off the entire presentation by himself; he always invited several speakers, including designers, partners, and other executives, to help him introduce their latest product. Do the same. Bring someone from the audience onstage and get them do something relevant and fun. This technique should always be arranged with the volunteer in advance."



"Pictures can be worth a thousand words and grab your audience at the same time. They are useful to carry through the theme of your talk."


Belief Statement

"A pithy statement that captures your views on the topic, and entices the audience to come along on the journey with you."


Intriguing Structure

"Laying out the highs and lows of your story upfront, can create a sense of drama."



How can you find inspiration in the following videos for your presentation?

Engage Your Audience

"What’s one of the best ways to make your presentations more interesting? Make the audience a part of them. Take this speech by Donovan Livingston. He delivers a commencement speech in spoken word poetry, and specifically encourages the audience to take part, saying they should clap, throw their hands in the air, or otherwise participate if they feel so moved. While not seen, several people are heard cheering and clapping throughout the video. Participation can also be accomplished through things such as games, posing questions or something as simple as asking participants to raise their hands."