The most important skill a public speaker can develop and nurture is making a connection with the audience. In fact, Featured Speaker Jeffrey Gitterman says it is one of the critical skills. “If you want to be a great speaker, you want to create a connection between you and the audience that is at a much deeper level than you can get with PowerPoints and video and cool little gimmicks.”
Once you know how to connect with an audience, people will be more likely to enjoy your presentation and want to hear you speak again.
Connect from the Start
Set the tone of your speech and engage your audience from the beginning with your opening. Very often you can capture your audience’s attention by giving them a startling fact or announcement. A story that illustrates the points or sets the stage for your presentation is another good way to begin.
Make a Heart Connection with the Audience
Public Speaking Super Powers mentioned this aspect of connection and authenticity. On a basic level, this means don’t just memorize your speech. You need to connect with your topic on an emotional level so that you can talk with feeling, and allow your emotions to rise to the surface. When people see you are passionate or upset by something they almost always connect with you and your topic. It is very likely that members of your audience have experienced something similar that brings their own feelings to the surface. That’s the connection.
The human mind is hard-wired for story. That’s why stories are a compelling way to interact with your audience. If you use this strategy, use a story that is true to you, and one that identifies with the topic you are talking about. If you are talking about your own journey on how you got to where you are today, you will have lots of stories to share.
For help in developing your stories, look to the cinema, says Featured Speaker Patricia Fripp. “Hollywood knows how to emotionally connect with an audience,” she said. “A good speaker has to connect with an audience. So, there are a lot of principles that you can learn to adapt [from film].”
Visuals Connect, Too
One good tactic to engage your audience is using images or graphics. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That may not be so accurate, but they do communicate basic concepts and can evoke emotion. Use imagery through your slide deck, drawings on a whiteboard, or having a pinboard full of photographs. The pinboard idea works really well if you allow your audience to come up on stage and view them before your speech. In addition, it allows you to mingle and to introduce yourself at the same time.
Connecting with an Audience Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Take all the above suggestions into consideration and see if you can use one or more of them in your next presentation. Whatever you do, stay true to yourself and don’t make stories up. If you don’t have one to share, you can always use snippets from a friend’s story — as long as you give proper attribution.
The most powerful tool you have to connect with your audience is simply to use your voice and your body language. When you speak, speak with authority and confidence. Walk the stage and make eye contact with your audience and don’t forget the power of visual aids.
Remember that once you have learned the skill of connecting with your audience, your engagements will likely increase. You will become the requested speaker you hoped to be.