Ernestine, the sarcastic and all-powerful telephone operator played by Lily Tomlin on Laugh In, would frequently ask in her pinched, nasal voice, “Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?”
It’s a ridiculous question. (That’s why it’s funny.) Of course, she’s reached the party to whom she’s speaking. Whom else could she be speaking to?
But for a speaker, it’s not such a ridiculous question.
Lots of presenters speak without ever reaching their audiences. They talk at their audiences without connecting with them. And, as a result, they bore their audiences and ensure their resistance.
Reaching your audience means making a connection with them.
Five Ways to Connect with Your Audience
1. Do Your Research.
You wouldn’t talk about a subject you don’t know, would you? So don’t talk to an audience you don’t know. The more you learn about them, the better you’ll be prepared. At the very least, find out how many people are expected to attend your talk, what they already know about your subject, and how they feel about it
2. Talk to Your Audience Beforehand.
Arrive early. Check out the physical arrangements – the room set-up, the microphone, the computer and projector. And then talk to people as they arrive. Get to know some of them personally. It will make you more confident. And it will begin the process of building a connection
3. Address Their Concerns.
Don’t talk about your expertise. Use your expertise – what you know about your subject – to show your audience how they can solve a problem or achieve a goal that’s important to them. Talk about what they care about, and they’ll care about what you say.
4. Look at Them.
Eye contact, in the western world at least, establishes credibility. If someone won’t look us in the eye, we think they’re trying to hide something from us. Look one person in the eye at a time. Speak to that person for 5 to 7 seconds. Then establish eye contact with someone else.
5. Don’t Give a Speech.
Don’t think about giving a speech. The very thought makes most people break out in a sweat, and it makes them look and sound unnatural as they are speaking. Think instead of holding a conversation with your audience. Speak the way you normally do, only with more preparation and attention. Use personal pronouns – I, you, and we – and contractions – I’m, you’re, and we’ll.
Reach the audience to whom you are speaking. Make a connection. Build a relationship. Establish trust. When you do, the audience will be much more likely to give you their attention and cooperation.
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Also see Connecting With Your Audience.
For information about how Chris Witt can help you become a more powerful speaker, contact us.