With public speaking, success is determined by your audience, not by you. That means you need to engage your audience – to build a relationship with them – often in less than an hour. You need to focus on delivering to them what they want to hear in a way that they want to hear it. Here are some tips to assist you in successfully delivering presentations by building strong, sincere relationships with your audience.
Get to Know Them
If you don’t know to whom you are speaking, you will have a hard time building a relationship with them. Know as much as you can about your audience before preparing your presentation. If you are giving a canned presentation, make sure it is customized for each audience. If it is not focused to hit the target audience, it may significantly miss meeting your objectives.
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Here are characteristics of your audience you should know:
Understand the audience’s age, race, gender, education level, origin, preferences, political leanings, leisure time activities, social habits, etc. This will really help you as you start to weave stories, anecdotes or metaphors into your presentation and will ensure that you avoid any content that could be inappropriate.
Know what your audience expects from you? Is there a precedent? Have you spoken to them before? What is your reputation with the audience? Is there something specific that is on their minds that must be addressed to ensure that they receive your communication?
Knowledge of the Topic.
Be aware of the audience’s level of proficiency with the topic you are covering. The only thing worse than a speaker who talks about something so technical and esoteric that the audience is completely lost is a speaker who talks down to his/her audience as if they were second graders. Remember that even though you have to truly understand your audience and make allowances for differing skills levels, don’t dumb it down to the lowest common denominator either. That might make YOU come off as second grader.
Make Contact with Them
When speaking to an audience. Build a relationship with them by using all the components of effective communication. Start with a warm, sincere greeting. This is the first step in building any relationship and it is particularly important when establishing a relationship with your audience. And remember, trust and authenticity are critical to any relationship and this includes the relationship between speaker and audience. So, be yourself. Exude your Brand. You are not going to build a relationship with the audience if you are being someone else. Here are some ways to connect with your audience:
Use the right amount of movement to express your enthusiasm. Movement shows the audience that you are passionate and varying it allows you to make points and differentiate among the things you are saying. Making eye contact shows confidence and communicates sincerity. You can also use your hands and make gestures to accentuate certain messages. Ensure you are talking to the entire audience.
Varying your voice is critical to helping the audience understand the important points in your presentation. And speaking with enough volume will ensure that all members of the audience hear you regardless of where they are sitting.
In the global village, we are more and more often giving presentations to people who come from different countries and have differing language fluency. Be careful not to use expressions, examples, or metaphors that would only be understood by people in your native country. I remember listening to a keynote speech at a European Technology Conference, and the American speaker opened with a story about Dunkin Donuts and bagels. He lost about 90% of his audience right from the onset. If you really want to connect with your audience, speak in a way that they will truly understand.
Read Their Feedback
The audience will give you the clues you need to help you to deliver an effective presentation. Pay attention to what they are telling you with their body language so that you can keep them engaged throughout your performance. The audience may be providing feedback in a few areas:
Frequency of Message
If you feel that your audience is not getting the message, repeat your key points in different ways to ensure they are understood. Remember the old rule of public speaking: tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them. The audience is more likely to remember the beginning of your speech, the closing and items that are repeated. So, if you think they are a bit confused, take the time to repeat key messages.
You are running the show. But the audience sets the pace. They will give you clues if you are going too fast or too slow. So pay attention and adjust your pace accordingly.
As Dorothy Sarnoff says “Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.” It is always a good idea to leave them wanting more. So, finish early and leave extra time for Q&A.
By being prepared and exuding your authentic personal Brand, you will build a solid, sincere relationship with your audience, and ensure an effective performance.
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