Do your audience “feel” your message ? Is yours a connected presentation that has them truly engaging with you? Really connecting all the dots? And all the people? And all the outcomes?
If you prefer listening to reading, please click here for an audio version:
Great presenters seem to just “connect” with us, don’t they? You know, enabling us to “warm” to them quickly. To find ourselves really “opened” and receptive to a message that can hopefully help us. But to genuinely feel that it is authentic nonetheless. For a while to lure us away from the seemingly permanent presence of “the constant negative” that (social) media seems to bombard us with.
It’s this “connectedness” that I’d like to focus on helping you develop an acute awareness of today.
Really connecting with your audience starts with your “entrance”. Them seeing a beaming smile and a confident posture is a critical starting point in that connection. Some rapport will already exist because of what the audience have read and heard about you, and maybe from your being introduced. Your job from that point onwards is to strengthen that rapport. Remembering that rapport is the unconsciously held trust and responsiveness that exists between people. Better enabling aspired to outcomes for both parties.
Whether your audience or the topic or the stakes intimidate you or not, your job is to be fully present and full of confidence. (Even if your self talk is full of self doubt). To do whatever it takes so that you can confidently stand up or walk up on stage portraying that you believe in yourself. Even if the butterflies in your stomach are “all over the place”. Knowing that if you use a few deep breaths you’ll get them into formation just as soon as you are able to get started.
This is also where all the preparatory work we have already discussed in presentation preparation comes good. It gives you confidence that you know your stuff – without needing notes. (And they don’t know your script anyway, so they wouldn’t know when you’ve stuffed up).
Allowing you to focus all your energy on building the connections that have people respond positively to you and your message.
My clients also learn to look out for the “smilers” in the audience. There’ll always be at least one. Meaning? Someone that seems positively disposed towards you. Not identifiable (only) through their “connected smile”, but it’s something we “feel”. I urge my clients to find and leverage this “assumed” support and encouragement to help them overcome their “nerves”. And what we’ve found is that this usually works, whether that “smiler” proves to be a supporter or not. It’s what we’ve convinced our mind of to be “true” that matters, right?
The “hard” skills
Of course what you present to your “calibrated” audience matters. It’s what you want them to take away and apply or use or leverage. And so the content is vitally important. Which is the “hard-skills” side of it. The ideas. And solutions. Plus perspectives. The measurable outcomes they can implement for their personal and business benefit.
But we all know that’s not “it”, don’t we? We know that it’s the “soft-skills” that help prepare the soil and make it “fertile” for our message.
The “soft” skills
In Speaking With Ease I outline that the words we use only make up 7% of our communication. And that gesture (38%) and posture (55%) together make up the 93% of our communication actually being non-verbal. So it’s not so much what we’re saying. But much, much more about how we’re saying it. And projecting it.
Also how well we can “loosen them up” through contagious humour and laughter, to help allow them to “lower their guard”. And how much Empathy and compassion we’re showing. How we are able to “win people over” through our relatability and how “likeable” and believable we come across. Not for what’s in it for us, but always through the lens of what’s in it for them, the audience.
And also how authentically we are “felt” to be delivering our message. Remembering that, particularly in Australia, people have a very good BS meter. Which can be very quickly used to “spit you out”.
In my blog Intuition: How strong is your Vibe-meter?” I speak about our ability to “tune-in” to the vibes that exist between us and whom we are interacting with. Enabling us to build substantial rapport between us and our audience. Whether one on one or one to many.
I refer to Alan Pease’s research that highlights how each of us “suss-out” the vibes that exist between us and another in the first few minutes of our first meeting. That in that time – without being consciously aware of it – each concludes whether we “like” the other, would be able to trust them and/or do business or work with them.
It’s these “vibes” I’m referring to when I speak about “connectedness with our audience”.
It is an extraordinary (certainly not words related) level of connectedness that very skilled (that is practiced) presenters manage to embrace. Using all the different media, senses and energies available. To engage with the audience at a “vibes” level. Reading the energy and responses to your message in the room. Adapting to them and influencing that connected energy to keep your audience “in the palm of your hand”. Why? Because in such emotionally connected “I’m starting to like this person” states, we can much better absorb the content and become open to the message.
I’m currently reading (studying?) Dr. Sue Morter’s book “The Energy Codes” in which she suggests that
“everything is energy”. And outlines the interconnectedness of all our energy fields. She refers to the research done by the late Dr Valerie Hunt on recognizing the vibrations in our bio-energy fields, around how we feel, what we’re saying (or hearing), what we’re doing (and eating) and the effects of meditation etc. And highlights how these “energies” go well beyond just our intuition, but that they also exist between people. Influencing how we interact. And in our context, between you, the presenter, your audience and the audience themselves. Energies and vibrations you can leverage to make your presentation really connect.
True “soft skills” at work. Great results simply have to follow.
So what else?
In our preparation we spoke about opening a story (metaphor) at the start, but leaving it unfinished for the rest of our presentation. Why? To keep their unconscious mind wondering what happens to that story… So that at the end we can close it to satisfy that wondering. But having held that part of their (unconscious) attention all along. This where that plays out.
Assuring we stay in tune with all the personalities and communication styles in the audience, it is so important never to be monotone. Boring….
Varying our pace, volume, tonality, enthusiasm. seriousness, pauses, language sophistication, gesture, posture etc all serves to keep our audience awake, connected and engaged. With us.
In case some or much of this was unfamiliar to you, can you start to see what makes good speakers so compelling to listen to? Words and content notwithstanding? And if you are already a “good speaker”, I hope this has managed to add a few more pointers to your repertoire? It’s no rocket science, is it? But it just works. If you work it.
Another great area to work with a coach, if you really want to “polish” this skill.
Please note that this blog is the second in my trilogy.
You can go to the two others from here: