In my opinion, a lot of people out there are delivering presentations that just don’t resonate with their audience. What’s the problem? I think there’s a variety of reasons for this, ranging all the way from malfunctioning technological devices to a poor quality speaking voice to plain down boring content to flat methods that don’t grab and hold participant attention. And everything in between. But the biggest failure of all is that most presenters have no idea how to really CONNECT with the folks staring up at them. This lack of connection is the number one killer for thousands of individuals attempting to engage in public speaking. Unless a speaker connects at the heart level with her audience, she and the crowd have wasted their time.
After years of intense public speaking opportunities, I learned something about what you have to do-and not do-to achieve that connection. I want to share them with YOU so you don’t fall into some very common traps that can derail your efforts. Implement these ten tips and watch your public speaking rating soar:
1. Get clear about the message you really want your audience to receive (before you start writing the presentation content).
While you may have twenty points you want to make, know which one is the most important. Then frequently interject that main theme throughout the entire speech. Keep on coming back to it so it sticks with each and every person listening to you. People have to hear something over and over again before they actually grasp it and integrate it into their lives.
2. Decide upon a length of time for delivery that is appropriate for the message.
Most presenters/speakers talk too long. Some like to hear themselves talk, and that’s why their gig last two hours instead one. Remember that you lose most folks if you drone on and on. Know what you want to say, and then say it succinctly in a way that means something to the audience. Using fifty words when you could have made a good point in fifteen weakens your entire presentation.
3. Use stories to illustrate key points.
There is a lot of wisdom behind telling stories to an audience. People are more likely to connect with you during the presentation and remember what you said afterward when you use stories that drive home your points. The stories are what stay with people days-even months-later. And along with those stories, you have stayed with them too. You’ve made your mark.
4. Begin your presentation with a provocative question, a shocking story, an attention getting announcement.
Start your presentation with opening lines that draw your audience close to you. Make them feel something. Anything. But inspire some emotion to surface in them within the first three to five minutes of your speech. If you accomplish that, you have them temporarily in the palm of your hand. Get them to sit up straight in their chairs, straining to hear more from you.
5. Learn the art of transition.
Avoid a disjointed presentation by learning how to segue from one segment of your speech to another. Maybe you just made a fabulous introduction, but if you don’t know how to transition from that opener into the body of your content, you risk losing the audience right up front. Brief stories, questions, examples, accounts of real life happenings, and personal anecdotes can serve as very effective connectors to a next segment. You don’t want the participants to be consciously aware of your transitions.
6. Understand that cool technology doesn’t build the connections you seek.
While state of the art technological equipment can augment your delivery in effective ways if used well, it isn’t the heart of your presentation. It won’t draw people to you and to your message. It won’t make you memorable a week later. It won’t impact people in a life-changing way. Technology is a tool that supports YOU. It isn’t you. So many folks just don’t get that fact. Recently I heard someone say his whole presentation was “down the tubes” because his Powerpoint wasn’t working right. The Powerpoint was only a support for everything he was planning to give his audience. But he saw it as the essence of his message. Technology without heart is empty.
7. Be authentic with your audience.
Being authentic means being real. Being who you are at the core. Being true to yourself in front of others. An audience can generally see through an act. Sometimes speakers pretend to be somebody they aren’t because they think the audience may not like them for who they are. This is nonsense. An audience wants YOU, not a shadow of you or someone completely different from you. People are attracted to authenticity more than they are attracted to phoniness. Stand up there and show them the real you confidently and joyfully.
8. Demonstrate your humanity.
During your presentation show the audience that you are indeed a human being like they are. You can do this via stories and/or allowing them to glimpse a few of your imperfections. People relate to folks who seem to be like them, at least in some ways. This is a great strategy for building that connection you desire. If you appear too different, too perfect, too polished, your audience may not respond to you and your message as you’d hoped. In fact, they may dislike you in a passive way. So “stand beside them” in your shared humanity as you talk to them.
9. Choose your words carefully.
It matters how you say something. Not all words and phrases are equal in impact and effectiveness. Simply describing a hair-raising drive across Montana in a snowstorm as “terrifying” is not quite as dramatic as sharing exactly what you saw, what you heard, what you felt during every one of those hundred miles. Using detailed descriptors that make an audience feel your fear and loneliness and anxiety helps to create a connection with them. In other words, bring them into the scene with you. Don’t settle for them merely looking at a painting.
10. Love your audience.
Yes, love them. Each one of them. Love them before you even see them. They can feel the love coming from you whether or not they understand it on a conscious level. Being able to feel it, though, is very powerful. This love builds a connection between them and you. Imagine holding each person in the palm of your hand as you deliver your speech. Silently dedicate your message to each individual’s highest good.