Three Motivators for Engaging Your Audience

Dear Friends:
Our guest columnist this month is Jonas Caine, founder of and the hashtagposivity (#positivity) community group on Facebook. He is an accomplished magician, speaker and workshop leader, and a longtime member of our Mystery School community. You’re going to love this!
Three Motivators for Engaging Your Audience
By Jonas Cain

The look on the woman’s face said it all—but if there was any doubt, it was resolved when she opened her mouth.
“How long is this going to take?”
These words punched me in the gut. I had just walked in the door of the senior center ready to perform my magic act, but the entire community of seniors were engrossed in a game of bingo. When the staff stopped the game to begin the performance, the stern woman confronted me to make it clear she wasn’t happy about the state of affairs, adding, “I hope it’s a quick show.”
This experience became a valuable reminder that not everyone in our audience will want to be there, and even for those who are excited for the opportunity, as presenters, we are gifted with the responsibility to honor that excitement by providing an all-around engaging experience.
Activators to A.I.D. Engagement
In my work as a performer, facilitator, and coach, there are three key motivators I use to engage with my clients: Attention, Interest, and Desire. Whether in a classroom, boardroom, theatre, or wherever your work takes you, you can use these same motivators to A.I.D. engagement with your own audiences—and in so doing, make stronger connections with the people you serve.

When initiating these strategies, it’s recommended to approach them linearly — starting with attention, then interest, and building to desire. Once all three are activated, you can then use them together iteratively, weaving back and forth to reinforce deeper engagement. 
What follows is a brief explanation for why these engagement motivators are important and suggestions for implementing them:
1. Attention

You may have something wonderful to share, but if no one is paying attention then it simply won’t matter. Gaining attention activates a temporary state of curiosity through external stimuli, motivating them to respond with perceptual curiosity—the tendency to investigate novelties in the environment.
How do we apply this to our presentations? Fast-paced visual magic works well here, such as appearances, transformations, color changes, and so forth, as does changes in sound and light. A joke or a brief story can also work if they are both crafted and paced well.
Attention, however, wanes quickly, which is why we must transition efficiently from mere attention to interest. And that’s the key to this motivator: attention unlocks the potential to foster interest in experiencing more, inspiring your audience to sustain their attention.
2. Interest

Whereas attention tends to be fleeting, interest can be longer-lasting because it relies on what your audience already intrinsically cares about, motivating them to respond with epistemic curiosity—the tendency to investigate unanswered questions and develop deeper understandings. By connecting your presentation to what your audience already cares about, you motivate a deeper level of curiosity, inviting them to engage more meaningfully in the experience.

How do we apply this to our presentations? Magic that speaks to emotions and strongly held beliefs can work well here. For example:

  • The Light and Heavy Chest can speak to beliefs about power.
  • The 100th Monkey can challenge the perception of beliefs.
  • Anniversary Waltz can speak to the value of relationships.

These are just a few samples to help get you started thinking about what is inherently motivating for your audience. In addition, it’s worth noting the valuable role stories can play here. Humans are wired to understand life through metaphor, and a well-crafted story embedded in the right part of your presentation can do wonders for creating a deeper level of interest for your audience.

3. Desire

When genuine interest is activated, it can become fuel to drive your audience to get involved, motivating your audience to respond with social curiosity—the tendency for people to value what they help create. This final engagement motivator is where you invite your audience to follow your lead and become co-creators of the experience.

How do we apply this to our presentations? Scripts that utilize call-and-response and do-as-I-do will work well here, and magic that empowers your audience to perform their own magic can be used to great effect. Jeff McBride’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a perfect example of a piece that utilizes this strategy.

Another valuable way to activate desire is your ability to demonstrate authenticity, likeability, and trust—the dance between who you are, what you do as an expression of who you are, and the attitude you express towards your relationship with the people you serve. Simply put, if your audience likes you then they will want to engage in the experience, and if they don’t then they won’t.


  1. How might you generate attention?
  2. How can you foster interest?
  3. How will you inspire desire?

Final Thoughts
As presenters, we are gifted with the responsibility to provide an all-around engaging experience for our audiences, and taking this responsibility to heart will reward us with stronger connections with the people we serve.

Using these same engagement activators all those years ago at that senior center, when my magic act interrupted a game of bingo, I was able to win over the heart of even that stern woman who was hoping for a quick performance. Throughout the show, I watched her scowl turn into a smile, and listened to glee spill from her heart in fits of laughter! And by the end of the act she even willingly volunteered to participate in the grand finale, becoming an engaged co-creator of a valued experience. When the show ended, she once again approached me, this time with a transformed heart, saying: â€œI thought I didn’t like magic, but I like you!”

Such can be the power of directing attention, speaking to inherent interests, and inspiring desire for what you have to share through authenticity, likeability, and trust. Whether in a classroom, boardroom, theatre, or wherever your work takes you, you can use these same motivators to A.I.D. engagement with your own audiences.

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