How to Connect with your Audience when Presenting

How to Connect with your Audience when Presenting

The public speaking world is awash with hundreds of techniques to make your presentation/speech ‘effective’ ‘have impact’ ‘be persuasive’, ‘entertaining’ … the list goes on.

But what purpose underlies all these techniques? It is to CONNECT.

Presenting is communicating and communicating is about connecting with the person/people in front of you.

That’s all very well you might say, but how do I connect?

Let’s start with 10 things we don’t do to connect when presenting:

  1. We don’t think about the profile and needs of the audience when planning our presentation.
  2. We don’t strip down the content to only include that which satsifies the objective of our talk.
  3. We don’t project our energy out, instead we worry about the impression we are making and what the audience might be thinking about us.
  4. We don’t make eye contact with members of our audience.
  5. We don’t talk naturally, instead we read from our slides,.
  6. We don’t use simple words and expressions to get our message across.
  7. We don’t use language or content that has emotional appeal.
  8. We don’t produce simple slides.
  9. We don’t make our presentation easy to follow with a clear structure.
  10. We don’t answer the question that is in the audience’s minds – ‘what’s in it for me?’

Recently I was working with a client who had to give a presentation about finance to non-financial people. My client had successfully avoided committing the ‘crimes’ of points 1 to 8 and indeed his attempt to speak simply and clearly about financial terms, that is, to express the concepts in a language the audience would understand was admirable. Yet something was missing….

As he was giving his presentation he would dive straight into each section without first introducing it. I see presenters do this time after time. And in most cases what happens is that many members of the audience get lost, they find it difficult to keep up with and follow the presentation. They might only get lost for a few seconds, but those few seconds are a disconnection and a disconnection that could lead someone to start thinking about what they are having for dinner that night instead of listening to you.

All presentations need some structure to give the audience space to assimilate the information that has just been given and be ready for the new information that is going to come at them. A presentation is a journey, we as presenters know where we are going on our journey, but our audience needs a guide to accompany them. Reminding them of where we are taking them before we actually take them there is comforting and gives security.

So, what I am saying is – a presentation with a clear structure keeps the audience connected with you.

But don’t forget, the people who are listening to you are listening to you for a reason. They want to know how you can help them, how you can ‘solve their problem’. So make sure you make it about them.

Going back to my client with his financial presentation, his objective was to raise financial awareness among the listeners so they would consider doing certain aspects of their job in a different way which would ultimately lead to greater profitablity for the company. By making one simple change to his language he managed to connect with the audience by constantly answering their question ‘what’s in it for me?’. The change was the introduction and constant use of the word ‘you’, and pointing out how each person would benefit from what he was speaking about.

Instead of talking about general financial concepts to ‘raise financial awareness’ he constantly related the concept to how it was going to help them, using such phrases as ‘this will mean that you…’, you will be able to’…`’we want to help you…’ ‘you will probably be thinking…’ ‘how does that affect you?’ Hey, so now you are presenting to me and you are concerned about me because you keep referring to me! I like that, I can relate to you more easily now, I am connecting with you, WE are connecting.

We have a saying in English – ‘to go in one ear and out of the other’. When we don’t connect when presenting that is exactly what happens, the information might go in my head (if you’re lucky) but it won’t stay there because without connection the information lacks meaning for me.

I would like to leave you with a question;

How well are you connecting when you present?

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