Every speaker wants a good ‘connection’ with the audience. In some cases, that can be quite hard. Not all audiences are the same. And some audiences, you have to ‘convince’. Wouldn’t it be great if your audience would listen engaged to every word you had to say? It’s possible.
There are a few ways to connect to your audience. Some are easy. And your audience will feel closer to you, without you being too obvious about it.
Respond to what you see
Many speakers are very self-focused when they are on stage. Most of the time, this is not intentional. But speakers want to do a good job. So they focus on the job they feel is most important: the words and the slides.
If you focus only there, you will lose the attention of the audience. Because there is no connection.
A good speaker has to know what happens in the room, at all times. Are people paying attention, are they bored, are they engaged? Who is laughing and who isn’t? And who seems to agree or disagree with you?
If you feel the room agrees or doesn’t agree, for example, act on it. Tell them “I see some people disagree, that’s fine, here’s why I feel it is like this…”
The mere fact that you are responding to their movements shows you care. And caring means connecting.
Look at people a bit longer
It’s common advice for speakers: “Look to all parts of the room and focus on some people”. Great advice, but you need to be careful with this. If you ‘glance’ over the audience too much, they will feel neglected. They feel you don’t ‘see’ them.
What you want is a real connection. This means looking people in the eye. In fact, look at some people a bit longer. Not too long, that gets creepy, but long enough to get the connection. Get a smile even. It will bring you closer.
Smiling is one of the most underestimated parts of public speaking. If you want to connect, the audience must feel you like them. And if you are not smiling, how will they ever feel you like them?
Once you show you are enjoying yourself on stage, the audience will become part of that. And they will feel closer to you.
How to make people smile? Sometimes you can do that with jokes. Being funny does help. If you can make the audience smile, they will feel closer to you.
Now there is a danger here. If your joke backfires, you could lose all the connection. So think about jokes. Don’t offend people. Don’t make fun of specific groups. Be lighthearted and funny. The best person to joke about is you.
Which brings me to a very important part of your presentation. You have to make any presentation you do personal. People bond with you, not with the presentation. So as soon as you can make part of the presentation personal, you will get closer to the audience.
This doesn’t mean you have to keep telling stories about yourself or your kids all the time. It does mean, you want to connect the content of the presentation to your personality. Show the connection between you and what you are trying to get across. People will like you, and your talk, better.
Refer to what they already know
If you talk about stuff that people can’t relate to, you make it hard for them. It can be almost like you are talking to them in a foreign language. How do you feel when you are part of a conversation between two people speaking a language you don’t understand? You feel left out.
You want to avoid people feeling left out. Even when you are talking about difficult topics. You want to sometimes bring it back to basics. The best way of doing that is to refer to things people already know. Sometimes that is an analogy, sometimes it’s going back to something everybody knows.
If you refer to what people know, you give them trust and they will get closer to you.
Walk towards your audience
There are speakers who stand behind a desk. And there are those (like myself) who like to walk around. I prefer the walking way, for several reasons. For one, it’s a way of getting closer to your audience.
By physically getting closer to your audience, you will make them feel closer to you as well. So walk towards them. Make them ‘part’ of your presentation. And it will create a bond.
Compliment the audience
Finally, compliment the audience. Tell them how great they are.
There are several parts in the presentation where you can do this. At the start, you can make a compliment about the location, the city that you are in or the company that you are presenting at. During the talk, you can tell them you can see they are a smart audience. “I don’t need to tell you this, you know this”, shows you feel they are smart. And at the end of the talk, you can say you enjoyed their presence.
A compliment can do many things!
As you can see, there are many ways of getting a connection with your audience. The one important thing you have to keep in mind is that it’s about them, not you. Once you are there, all other things will come easy.
How about you, how do you connect with your audience?
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