Resonate With Your Audience
“It takes a lot of work to breathe life into an idea. Creating an interesting presentation requires a more thoughtful process than throwing together the blather that we’ve come to call a presentation today. Spending energy to understand the audience and carefully crafting a message that resonates with them means making a commitment of time and discipline to the process.”– Nancy Duarte, American writer, speaker, CEO
Think about the last time you were talking to someone. Did you feel they were “hanging on your every word,” or did you get the feeling they may be thinking about that meeting later today, how they will afford that new house, or that vacation to Greece later this summer?
In the former case, the person with whom you talked was engaged, asking questions, and wanted to know more.
They were disengaged, quiet, and not seeking to know more about what you were saying in the latter case.
The same thing happens when you speak to your audiences. Your audience members’ minds may be “a million miles away.” But, conversely, you hope they may be “hanging on your every word.”
One of your tasks as a speaker is to keep them in sync with what you are saying or, if they are not in sync, to get them back in sync with you and your presentation.
Have you ever heard of Nancy Duarte? Search for her books, videos, and podcasts if you haven’t. As a speaker, you are missing a lot if you don’t.
One of Nancy Duarte’s books is called Resonance: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. In her book, Duarte talks about how the power of a story promotes resonance with your audience.
Below are three of Nancy Duarte’s “Resonance Rules:” Resonance Causes Change, Stories have an Exponential Effect on Outcomes and “Tune” to Your Audience’s Resonant Frequency. Excerpts from Duarte’s book are in quotes.
Rule #1 – Resonance Causes Change
In physics, “resonance occurs when an object’s natural vibration frequency responds to an external stimulus of the same frequency.”
As a speaker, “if you adjust to the frequency of your audience so that your message resonates deeply, they, too, will display self-organizing behavior.” In other words, determine the “frequency” of your audience and mold your message to that “frequency.” Your audience will respond favorably.
“The audience does not need to tune themselves to you – you need to tune your message to them. When you speak to your audience’s “frequency,” they instinctively know where you want them to move and willingly follow you there.
You seek to change how your audience thinks about your subject in your presentations. When your message is in tune with your audience, meaningful change happens.
Meaningful change is why you and the rest of the world enjoy our standard of living. Resonating with your audience brings significant change to your audience and, therefore, the world.
So, being in resonance with your audience will produce the change in them you are seeking. Another powerful way to resonate with your audience is through the stories you dramatize.
Rule #2 – Stories have an Exponential Effect on Outcomes
When you talk to others, you influence more by illustrating facts through stories than by simply stating facts. But, hopefully, you would say your influence is much more significant through the stories you dramatically deliver.
This is not too surprising if you consider the way your world is transformed for a couple of hours by that movie that stirs your soul.
This is the difference between the effect on your audience of stating facts and the effect of telling stories.
When you deliver relevant stories, you take advantage of what Hollywood has known for nearly a hundred years and what authors have known for centuries. Stories told dramatically stir the audience’s soul. You do the same thing with your stories.
As Nancy Duarte puts it, “Stories have an exponential effect on outcomes.” For your purposes as a speaker, they have an exponential effect on your audience.
Duarte explains that reports convey facts, but presentations are not reports. Your presentations are performances, much like you would witness in a play or a movie. When delivering a presentation, you provide an experience for your audience, not just providing facts.
When delivering a story, you appeal to both sides of your audience members’ brains. As a result, your presentation will be much more memorable and have more meaning for your audience.
Rule #3 – “Tune” to Your Audience’s Resonant Frequency
In his book Business Made Simple, author Donald Miller says if you want to appeal to your customer or your audience in your case of delivering your presentation, remember your customer is the hero, and you are the guide.
It is all about them. So, to become a student of your audience, learn as much as you can about your audience before, during, and after your presentation about their hopes, desires, and aspirations. In other words, “tune your “spidey sense” to your audience’s resonant frequency. “It is important to know what makes your audience tick to connect with them.”
According to former AT&T presentation research manager Ken Haemer, “designing a presentation without your audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘to whom it may concern.’”
After you discover your audience’s hopes, desires, and aspirations, your next task is determining how to convince your audience they can achieve these. What are you going to say, how are you going to say it, and what stories will you tell your audience to convince them their imagined transformation can become their reality are all part of your presentation preparation.
Ensure you put as much time into practicing your presentation as you do to decide what to say. Inadequate practice has doomed many a presentation.
Remember, your presentation will always fall flat with your audience unless you know and appeal to their hopes, desires, and aspirations.
The three engagement rules from Nancy Duarte are resonance causes change, stories have an exponential effect on outcomes, and “tune” to the resonant frequency of your audience.
To resonate with your audience, you must “tune” your presentation “radio receiver” to the same station for which your audience is “tuned.”
Resonate with your audience and expect their transformation!
Call to Action
Resonate with your audience to produce the change in them you are seeking
Use stories to increase your effect on your audience exponentially
Become a student of your audience to “tune in” to the same frequency as your audience
“My experience of great storytelling, working with classics, is just finding a way to present it simply but let the story do its own work, or be an invite to the audience’s imagination.”– Kenneth Branagh, actor
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”