How to Connect with your Audience (Building Rapport)
When you connect with your audience (also called building rapport), they become your allies. They become much more likely to pay attention and to cooperate with you.
The best way to build rapport is to show yourself to be trustworthy and likeable. Show your audience you trust and like them, and they’ll tend to reciprocate.
1. Talk to people before your presentation begins.
Introduce yourself as people gather. Get them talking about themselves and why they are there.
2. Have your audience’s best interests at heart.
See your presentation as an opportunity to serve your audience, not to impress or “sell” them.
3. Establish eye contact.
Look people in the eye one at a time. Hold their gaze for 5 to 7 seconds, and then look someone else in the eye. (Some cultures consider direct eye contact rude, so be careful when speaking to audiences in other countries.)
4. Speak simply and with conviction.
Don’t give a speech. Absolutely don’t read a speech. Talk to people. Say “I,” “we,” and “you,” when appropriate.
5. Approach your presentation from your audience’s perspective.
Address their concerns. Speak to their interests, values, and aspirations. Avoid jargon, words, or concepts they don’t understand. (If you have to use unfamiliar words, explain them immediately.)
6. Dress appropriately.
Dress to suit your audience. As a presenter, dress a little more formally than usual.
7. Avoid offensive humor or language.
8. Use evidence they will find credible.
Cite sources that your audience knows and respects.
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See also “How to Develop Confidence Speaking.”
Chris Witt, a coach based in San Diego, works with executives and with technical experts who want to give more effective presentations. If you’re interested in learning more about how you could benefit from his coaching, contact him.