August 31, 2014

How to Connect With Your Audience

Public speaking is a great marketing tool and exposure medium when used appropriately. On the other hand, it can do damage to your business when done badly.

You’ve probably heard the following tips: practice, practice, practice; come prepared; show up early and get a sense of the room. We can add to the list: don’t fidget, move with purpose or not at all, pause for effect, don’t ‘um’ and ‘ah.’ These are all good points. Debbie Fay of bespeak presentations shares some great ideas in her article Be a Presentation Powerhouse.

There is another aspect to public speaking that I’d like to address here. Many speakers get so caught up in their heads that they don’t stop to think about the impact their words or actions are having on the audience. While public speaking is good for the speaker, it only works well when the speaker frames the speech around what’s best for the audience. Instead of thinking about what you hope to gain from your presentation, remember that you get what’s best for you by concentrating on what your audience members need and want.

Connect To Your Audience

Here are some things to keep in mind when speaking in front of a group:

  1. Be careful how you try to connect with your audience. I was at a workshop a couple of weeks ago where the speaker shared how he used to be in the same industry as the audience. Okay, that’s connection. However, then he expressed the negatives about the industry when he explained why he left it. Now, those items were negatives for him but not necessarily for his audience. If he had added a statement like, “I admire all of you for overcoming those things that led me to leave the industry,” he would have begun developing a relationship with his audience. Instead, we were left with the feeling that he had just denigrated our chosen field.
  2. Stick to the subject. It is easy to go off on a tangent. Create an outline of what you want to convey to your audience. And remember, it’s about what they want to know – not about what you want to tell them. Using an outline will help you stay on course and frame your presentation in sequence. If someone asks a question that is off topic, tell them you’d be happy to talk with them after the presentation.
  3. Take time to speak with some of the attendees before your presentation so you have an idea of who is in the room. You can also ask people to introduce themselves quickly at the beginning of your talk. Knowing who is in the audience will help you communicate your points more directly, keeping their attention.
  4. Don’t sell! I can’t say this strongly enough. Your presentation is not an opportunity to sell your service or your product. Don’t brush over a topic and tell the attendees that they can learn more by buying your book or by taking your course. Give them substance and takeaways. That’s how you sell yourself. No one likes a presenter who offers a morsel of information without depth. They came to learn something. The description of your talk said they were going to walk out with X. Now deliver!

So, the next time you have the opportunity to speak to a room full of people, don’t fidget; don’t wander aimlessly; practice, practice, practice–and keep the four points outlined above in mind. You will find that your presentations will stand out for their depth and value. More people will want to connected with you. Your business will grow from exposure as your talks showcase your expertise.

Now what could be better than that?

8 Comments ▼

Diane Helbig


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

8 Reactions

  1. Excellent tips and I couldn’t agree more with #4. The minute I hear a speaker sell from the platform, I tune that person out. If they give a good presentation, the audience will beat a path to the speaker’s sales table and buy all they can.

  2. While you may be focusing all your efforts on your presentation, try to keep an eye on the crowd. Are they getting fidgety? Lot’s of people looking at the clock or their watches? Can you actually see people falling asleep?

    If you sense that you’re losing the crowd you may need to change it up on the fly. Do a quick poll of the audience via raised hands. Do something a bit unexpected (but not too crazy). Because if you don’t get them back it’s like your talking to a wall.

  3. Diane,

    Thanks for your four tips. My long-range goal is to become a leading public speaker on social media topics.

    Have you heard about Toastmasters International?

  4. Great post, Diane!

    Great timing, too. I’ll be increasing the amount of public speaking that I do this year, and next.

    I love public speaking. I always have.

    And, I don’t sell. I engage. It’s really what public speaking should be about.

    The Franchise King®

  5. It’s so great to see so many people interested in public speaking. It is a great way to position yourself as an expert, gain exposure, and share valuable information.
    Martin, I do know of Toastmasters. It’s an excellent organization that, from what I’ve heard, really helps aspiring speakers hone their skills.
    Joel, with that new book deal I imagine you’ll be all over the place!

  6. This is good advice plus I found this especially helpful coz going to make some youtube videos and I’m always apprehensive when doing vids so thanks.

  7. I used to take acting classes as a kid and found that if you learn to develop a little stage presence, for example, walking across the stage to make a point or towards the audience at key moments, the audience responds much better. Takes a bit of practice but it works out in the end.

    The ToastMasters clubs are also very good in this respect.

    Regards,

    Ivan

  8. Diane,

    I liked your first point about recognizing that a negative for you is not necessarily for your audience. It’s a great perspective that gets overlooked.

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