Connect with Your Audience

As a speaker, unless you connect with your audience, your message is not very likely to get through. Some ways to establish a greater and deeper connection are as follows:

  1. Start strong. Hook your audience. Ask them a question, or let them know emphatically what’s in it for them to listen to you. Right away, tell them what you’re going to tell them and build a curiosity or expectation to get and hold their interest.
  2. Allow your audience to relate to you. For example, if you speak about your own success after success, your audience may think you’re too special for them to be able to emulate. Whenever audience members feel the speaker is too special, they tend to cast off his or her advice.
  3. Your call to action should involve only one or two clear ‘next steps’ for the audience. One is best. Craig Valentine quotes “A confused mind says no” and adds “a clear mind says go”.
  4. Involve the audience members by asking questions or allowing a spontaneous moment. Engage them in a quick activity. Look for ways to keep them involved.
  5. Be present to and emotionally involved in your talk. Nothing binds an audience to a speaker better than evoking an emotional response. Allow your feelings to show a little and you may be surprised at the audience impact.
  6. Allow yourself to adjust to the energy level of the audience. A speaker who is too low-key or way too loud for the audience risks being turned off.
  7. Ensure each person in your audience gets your attention. Look at everyone during your talk.
  8. Make sure you don’t ‘talk over’ audience reaction to your speech. At least allow a pause. That will permit the audience to feel the appropriate energy exchange that is part of the speaker/listener experience.
  9. Use characters or events in your speech that audience members can relate to. For example, speaking to a senior citizens group about your successful climb of Mount Everest is unlikely to engage them!
  10. Include an idea or thought that gives your audience something to reflect upon. People appreciate being given something to think about.

Source: Common Speaker Pitfalls by Craig Valentine, Toastmaster November 2012 issue

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