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5 Ideas to Get Participants Exploring Your Content Before You Begin Speaking

Getting your participants interacting with your content even before you session begins can prime the pump for engaging conversations once you start your presentation.

Over the weekend I walked to the playground with my children and as they charged toward the play structures, I noticed that they suddenly stopped before they could reach the monkey bars and the slides. As I caught up with them, this is what I saw:


They had both found this board with instructions on how to sign each letter of the alphabet using American Sign Language, and they were trying to spell their names.

They had the entire playground to themselves and they stopped to interact with this board. It made me start to wonder: how can we capture our own learners’ curiosity in order to get them to want to interact with our content even before we begin our presentations?

Here are five ideas: 


This is one of my favorite ways to get people curious about my content. Have you ever gone to the movie theater early and seen movie trivia scrolling across the screen? You can insert a handful of questions about your topic and set your slideshow to scroll automatically to greet your participants with trivia questions as they walk through the door.

Here is an example of a trivia deck that I put together for a presentation skills session.

Sweet Fun Facts

Similar to greeting people with scrolling trivia on a slide deck, this idea is a little more low-tech. I first heard of this idea from my colleague, Michelle Baker, who sent me a photo of what she did to set up her room.

Print out a series of sentences with fun facts about your content, and cut out each sentence. Tape those fun facts to fun-sized candy bars that you can set out at each table or on participant’s chairs as they walk into the room.

You can also print out trivia questions to do this as well. You can take this a step further by printing out trivia questions for some candy, and the answers to those trivia questions for other pieces of candy. When the session starts, you can break people up into pairs for an icebreaker or small group activity by challenging people with questions to find their partner in the room by identifying the person who has the correct answer to their trivia question.


A while back, I co-facilitated a session on gamification in new employee orientation and we set out a different game at each table in the room. We encouraged people to open up the games and begin playing even before the session began.

These weren’t just any random games, they were the games we had actually used for our organization’s new employee orientation. Because we didn’t have enough time during the session to talk about all the different ways we gamified the orientation program, we had participants begin to play as they walked into the room, before the official start to our session.

Morning Work

Sometimes you want to introduce key concepts, principles or new vocabulary during a session. Setting out a crossword puzzle or a word search at each participant’s seat may entice them to start getting familiar with those new concept, principles or vocabulary words before you ever open your mouth.

There are a variety of ways to create these quickly. For word searches, I’ve used Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker. For crossword puzzles, you might want to try here.

Inspirational Posters

Similar to the morning work puzzles from above, you can welcome participants into the room and pique their curiosity through the artifacts you choose to surround them with. Specifically, this final idea includes posters you can hang on the wall or perhaps even table cards you can have set out at each table. Something like this:

Inspirational Poster

I’m sure you can create something like this using PowerPoint or other simple design tools. I used the Motivational Poster app from the iTunes App Store.

There are five ideas I came up with to get participants engaged. What’s missing? Do you have things you do to get people thinking about your content even before you open your mouth? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section.


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