Abracadabra: Connect with me!
Communication takes place so naturally that we sometimes fail to reinforce it when it is needed the most. See, when you look at someone, sign a gesture, or even curl your lips; we’re actually communicating. That’s how much of a second nature it’s become in our day-to-day interactions. At its core, communication is a 2-way street – one that ferries across both intellectual and emotional connections.
This means that for effective public speaking- regardless of the size of your audience – an emotional connection is just as important as an intellectual one. Connecting with your audience on common topics and interest doesn’t quite cut it if you aspire to be a great speaker.
When you truly connect with your audience, you build rapport and they become your friends. Their attention becomes yours for the taking. In doing so, your audience will also be more open and receptive to actually accepting and retaining your message.
The Intellectual Side of Things
Most speakers fall back to cold hard facts as a way to connect with their audience – simply because it’s so much easier to establish a relationship based on mutual interest rather than emotional attraction.
To connect with your audience intellectually, you’ll need to understand why your topic is important to them. The few common question good speakers ask themselves are: What does my audience expect to learn from my presentation? What are some topics that can garner interest among my audience demographic? What are some current trends that can spark discussions?
It is also important to know the level of knowledge they have about your topic, so you can tailor your information to keep people interested and engaged. There is nothing more insulting than to present basic information to a highly knowledgeable audience; or speak at too high a level for a novice audience.
The intellectual connection is all about establishing credibility and mutual ground. Many speakers rely on intellectual prowess as the sole bridge to their audience. In fact, most starting out in public speaking actually become overdependent on it, so much so that they tend to neglect the other, much more important connection.
The Golden Key
Your audiences like what you’re saying. That’s great. They agree and nod along with your words. That’s wonderful. Unfortunately, that won’t cut it. It’s simply not enough.
Like a golden key that opens up any lock in the world, an emotional connection will open your audience up to you like never before.
If you’ve ever delivered a speech where you failed to connect with your audience, I have good news for you. Building an emotional connection that lasts and makes an impression doesn’t require you to be the most captivating speaker in the world. Here’s a couple of ‘magic’ tricks I use to ensure that the emotional connection between the audience and me is never broken:
They say leave the best for last. I say, let’s start with the best.
Ever wondered why so many speeches start with the speaker making a joke? In fact, it seems a tad overused nowadays doesn’t it? When the speaker walks in smiling and waving enthusiastically, you just know that an inevitable joke is coming.
There’s a solid reason why speakers do this. When a speaker starts with a joke, it sends a signal to the audience that they can relax. Audiences are usually tensed up and conditioned to expect a boring speech. But jokes – the crown jewels of any good speaker, triggers the funny bone and lets audiences know that your speech is different from the rest.
This ancient rapport building technique relies on the principle that we warm up to people who make us laugh. It is also a way of showing that you - the speaker - are ‘one of them’.
As an added bonus, sprinkling jokes throughout a speech guarantees your audience will pay a little more attention – at least, they will be listening closely for the next joke to come along. So, including a little humour in your speech is actually a great way to get your points across.
2. Scale It Down
It’s easy to get lost in front of a large audience. As speakers, we always try to get audience feedback, but it’s not easy to do.
But here’s what you can do. A good speaker looks deeply at one particular person of his audience until he has made his point.
You know you are supposed to look at your audience when you talk to them. But in a large room, you rarely actually look. That is, your eyes sweep the audience constantly, but never land on a single spot in particular. This stems from natural instinct: because it’s hard to be engaging while looking a single individual in the eye.
Next time you’re on the stage, force yourself to look someone in the eye. Try to go through your entire point without taking your eyes off that individual. A great speaker is able to do this and really connect with their audience on a personal level. Being able to do this also means that you get to truly engage your audience with your material.
Remember the importance of the emotional tug. Human beings relate to each other more so on an emotional level then an intellectual one. This carries over to public speaking as well. If someone can make you smile or shed a tear, you automatically know that there is a strong emotional bond. Never underestimate the power of emotions - and your speeches will rarely fail to impress.