You’ve probably been in one of those meetings where the speaker drones through his or her endless PowerPoint slides while you sit and multi-task — doodling on your scratch pad, checking your e-mail and wondering how much longer this boredom could possibly go on.
On the other hand, you’ve probably attended conferences where you quickly scribbled down everything the speaker said and couldn’t wait to check out the resource table or ask a question.
A speaker’s ability to connect with his or her audience makes the critical difference. Here are five tips for connecting with your audience.
▪ Know your audience. Who are you speaking to? Your sales force, the board of directors, and financial analysts are all very different audiences. Consider your audience and how they relate to your topic. Also think about what your audience already knows about your content or, more importantly, what do they want or need to know? We are generally most engaged when we have the opportunity to learn something new. To engage your audience, tell them something about your topic that offers a new perspective.
▪ Get there early. Connecting with your audience can start before you begin speaking. If possible, arrive a few minutes early and work the room before your presentation. Speaking with just a handful of people in the audience prior to your speech gives you a chance to take the temperature of the room and gives you a few friendly faces in the crowd.
▪ Smile. Projecting a friendly and upbeat appearance helps you connect with your audience. If you seem bored with your topic, it’s going to be hard to convince your audience they should feel otherwise.
▪ Maintain good eye contact. This is another “Public Speaking 101” tip, but it’s true for a reason. Eye contact helps you build a connection with your audience. Some common mistakes include looking over the heads of your listeners or letting your eyes bounce from person to person, never really settling on an individual. Eye contact is all about inclusion, so it is important to make eye contact with the whole room–not just speak to one side or the other.
A good technique is to make eye contact with someone in the audience as you make a point, then look at another person as you move to the next point. While you may be looking at one person several people will have the impression you are talking directly to them.
▪ Be yourself. In-authenticity is a connection killer. Don’t try to imitate the style of another popular speaker. Learn good public speaking techniques and find your own voice. You have a better chance of connecting with your audience when you are yourself.
How do you connect with your audience?
- SpeakerByte #48: Eye Contact is All About Inclusion (professionallyspeakingblog.com)
- Practice Makes Imperfect: 5 tips for soliciting constructive feedback (professionallyspeakingblog.com)