No one argues with me when I tell them: “You need to connect with your audience when you present”.
People seem to know all the “age-old” truths:
- Your audience might forget what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.
- No one likes being talked at in a one way conversation.
- The audience tunes you out when they feel like you’re not making an effort to connect with them.
And yet, when it comes down to actually doing it, actually creating that deep, meaningful connection with the people you’re speaking with on that stage…people seem to think it’s optional.
“I’ll ask the audience some questions, but maybe there’s no need to wait for them to respond”.
“My audience is too senior/too serious/too pressed for time to bother engaging with me. They just want the info”.
“There will be people there that I haven’t met before, so how can I engage with them?”
No one wants to listen to an encyclopedia.
If you could present to the audience without engaging with them, why not send them an email?
You are not there to read out your slides to them. They are perfectly capable of doing that on their own.
You are there to create an experience.
You are there to connect with your audience firsthand.
Here’s one actionable tip to do just that:
Go in informed, observe while you speak, adapt as you go along.
Ok I might have cheated with that one. It’s 3 tips in one. But it all comes down this one thing:
Let the audience guide your presentation.
🔥 Get as much info on the audience beforehand as possible. What industry do they belong to? What are their roles/titles? What kind of language and cultural references would they most likely resonate with?
🔥 Adapt your presentation to the audience’s demographics and expectations each time. Never deliver the same presentation twice without considering whether it could be adapted to address the audience better.
🔥 Always warm up your audience before the presentation. Go in with a joke, an easy opener – not something that requires them to participate just yet.
🔥 Get into the habit of getting out of your head and observing the audience as you speak. This will come with strategic practice. Really observe them. Read the vibe of the room.
🔥 Adapt your content on the fly, address the room’s vibe. You can sense when people are sitting up and interested. Spend more time on that content, maybe add an anecdote or an insight they don’t see on the slides. When people’s eyes glaze over, that’s when it’s time to liven it up.
🔥 Make eye contact throughout the room. You’ll see some friendly, nodding faces – it’s easy to only keep looking at them but then you’ll be missing out on connecting with others.
🔥 Have a few “tricks” up your sleeve to get an unengaged audience going. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “My audience doesn’t want to engage so I won’t bother”. They haven’t found a good enough reason to engage. Give them that reason. Ask a relevant question that makes them sit up. Make it easy for them to participate. Give them an insight after they participate so they know it was worth it.
You can stand out in your industry, in your company, or in any room that you speak in if you show the audience how truly invested in them you are.
Hope this was helpful – I’d love to know if you get a chance to try out any of these strategies. I truly believe that you can use these whether you’re presenting to a group of 3 or 300.
Always happy to hear from you. Till next Saturday, speak fearlessly!