3 Ways to Connect with Your Audience!
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” – Benjamin Franklin
Do you want your audiences to take what you say in your presentations and apply it in their own lives? Of course you do. What other reward is there for a speaker?
In this article, we will examine three great ways to connect with your audience: (1) have a conversation with your audience, (2) interpret and react to your audience’s body language, and (3) tell stories to your audience.
Have a Conversation with Your Audience
Do you listen more attentively to someone you like or someone you don’t like? If you are like me, you will be much more inclined to listen to the person who you like. It is the same way in your presentations.
Giving a presentation is very similar to having a conversation with a single person. So, when you are presenting, imagine yourself having a conversation with a single person in your audience. What are some of the things you would do?
For one, you would look the other person in the eye. There is nothing more annoying than talking to someone while they are not looking at you. What is the first thing you think of when this happens? Of course. The other person is not listening to you. Good eye contact says a number of things. It says you are important to me. It says, I value you and what you are saying. It says I respect you.
Another thing you do during a conversation is you clarify what the other person is saying. You say things like, “Let me tell you what I think you are saying. Please correct me if I am wrong.” Another frustration people have when you are talking to them is being misinterpreted. People want to know your meaning of what they are saying is what they intended. So ask your audience occasionally whether they are getting the meaning of what you are saying.
Now think about your presentations and how you can use the methods of a one-on-one conversation to connect with your audience. Certainly good eye contact is essential. It tells your audience you are interested in them.
Although you normally do not get verbal feedback during your presentation, try to anticipate how you audience can misinterpret what you are saying. Say the same thing in a different way and then watch their body language. Think about how words in your presentation might not have the same exact meaning in the venue region. For instance, in the Midwest, a danish is called a sweet roll.
So, having a conversation with your audience will better connect you to them. Becoming an expert at reading your audience’s body language and how to react to it “on the fly” will put you in an elite group of speakers.
Interpret and React to Your Audience’s Body Language
Being able to read your audience’s body language is absolutely essential to connecting with your audience. As in one-on-one conversation, whenever body language does not match the words the other person is saying, the body language will always betray how the other person is really feeling.
The following is from “How to Read Body Language — 5 Ways Your Audience Can Make You a Better Speaker” concerning how to read audience body language:
a. Pay attention to your audience’s mood. As speakers, we can’t make the mistake of wearing a blindfold when we present, determined at all costs to deliver the presentation we came to give! Your audience, moment by moment, is sending out signals you need to be observing if you’re going to continue to connect with them and meet them where they live. Of course, you should do your best to understand your audience ahead of time.
b. Does everyone start taking notes? Just as important as negative visual feedback, are the instances where listeners show you that what you’re saying is valuable to them. Clearly, one of those times is when the pens, pads, and styluses emerge. Did you just say something that listeners suddenly think is important enough to write down? It’s actually one of the more dramatic ways your audience gives you a vote of confidence. Interestingly enough, most of the time this happens, I’ve found, it’s a universal effect: at the same time, everybody feels the need to memorialize what you just said.
c. Heads up? Nodding? – They’re giving you clues. If audience members are looking at you brightly and nodding enthusiastically you should feel a warm glow. The head nod doesn’t just indicate that people are suddenly paying attention. It is actually showing acceptance of the point you’ve just been making. This is much more than a clue that you should use this material again. It’s also giving you insight into the thinking of these listeners.
d. Facial Expressions and What They are Telling You.
1) We humans depend to an extraordinary extent on facial expressions to be able to successfully interact with others of our species. Trustworthiness? Motive? Affection or aversion? Comprehension or confusion? Impatience? Anger? Happiness? Engagement? Fascination?
2) We see, and process, all of these responses and many, many more through the facial expressions of the people we’re speaking to. This aspect of body language is a powerful and reliable tool for understanding and connecting with the people we interact with every day of our lives.
e. Body of Evidence. Posture and Movement.
1) We all tend to make ourselves comfortable when we’re settling in to hear a pitch, a presentation, or extended remarks. Keep this fact in mind when you notice audience members sitting back or wearing a placid expression. Not everyone will be nodding delightedly at what you say. (And you must avoid playing to those listeners exclusively!)
2) How significant is it, then, when they sit up and lean forward, cast a glance with raised eyebrow at fellow audience members, or move closer to the screen displaying your slide deck? The answer is that these changes in posture or movement are significant indeed. Every actress knows when she has an audience in the palm of her hand. Be sure to pay attention if it’s just happened in your presentation! You’re now in territory you should explore further, perhaps even asking the audience a question or giving them some other invitation to participate.
So, having a conversation and reading your audience’s body language will greatly help you to connect with your audience. The third and final way to connect with your audience is to tell relevant stories.
Use Stories to Connect
Who doesn’t love a story? Before man had the ability to record what was happening, stories were used to pass history on from generation to generation. If you are not telling relevant stories to your audience, you are missing a great opportunity to connect with them.
From the “Importance of Stories”:
Storytelling is a crucial component to effective public speaking. It creates relevance for the audience, providing additional detail and mental visuals that bring to life otherwise dull, remote, or complex topics.
Stories give speakers the opportunity to tell personal stories that relate to the audiences’ experiences, thought processes, or values. Moreover, including stories in both interpersonal communication and public speaking helps your audience remember your statements or speech for later recall.
According to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of “Made to Stick,” telling stories is one of the most important things that public speakers can do to make their presentations memorable. This is perhaps due to storytelling’s role as one of the few human traits that is truly universal regardless of age, gender, culture, and language.
Stories help us connect with our audiences in a way that charts, graphs, statistics, and bullet points cannot. They help us make our messages stick and our speeches memorable.
So stories are essential to making your presentation main points stick with your audience. Don’t leave home without them!
To connect with your audience, have a conversation with them, read and react to their body language, and tell lots of stories.
If you do these things, you will find your audience more attentive, more interested in what you are saying, and, most importantly, they will apply what you say in their lives. Isn’t that the whole point of speaking?
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity.” – Roy Bennett
Looking for professional services to help you significantly increase your influence with your audiences? Contact DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Office – (703) 815-1324 Cell/Text – (703) 509-4424