Change the World
I'm constantly asked by clients and associates to divulge the secrets to successfully connecting with an audience. Whether you're giving a business presentation or a speech, and the audience consists of three people or 3,000, the principles are the same: You have to connect viscerally, intellectually and emotionally.
As a professional speaker, it has become increasingly more difficult to be impressed by someone's ability to present from the platform, pulpit or front of the room. I have seen some of the very best speakers in the world and frankly, the bar has been raised very high. So when someone really impacts me, like the woman who gave the opening keynote speech for a convention I attended this week in South Carolina, I wanted to figure out how she did it.
I recently read (and highly recommend) "Give Your Speech, Change the World, How to Move Your Audience to Action" (Harvard Business School Press, 2005) by Nick Morgan. This title came from Morgan's core belief that if you're going to go through all the effort and work to prepare and deliver a speech or presentation, make it worthwhile. In other words, change the world or why bother?
As I witnessed today, the woman speaking from the platform to an audience of nearly 2,000 people, was not a professional speaker. She walked on stage with her entire speech written out and was prepared to read it verbatim. But instead, she decided in the moment to share from her heart and speak with passion about what she knew to be true. The effect was magical. Everyone there felt that she was talking only to him or her. She was far from perfect in her delivery but when you’re authentic and real with your audience, they will forgive you for anything! What the audience can't forgive is when a speaker doesn't believe in what he or she is saying and doesn't listen to the audience.
You have to show your audience that you're listening with your whole body, kinesthetically (being aware of the position and movement of your body in space) and always striving to give an audience a "centered" presentation each time you speak. Focus on the audience - not you - and you’ll hit it out of the ballpark every time.
Being able to move people to action is the reason why we give live presentations or speeches; otherwise we would just invite people to read it off our Web page, proposal or brochure. Being effective at connecting with an audience is essential for your career and business success. Here are a few tips adapted from Morgan's book.
Perfecting Connecting® Action Steps:
The only reason to give a speech is to change the world. Ask yourself if I only had one hour left to live in this world with these people, what would I say? What do I really want them to know?
- Effective connectors move their audience to action. What do I want them to do?
- Effective connectors listen to their audience. What is the audience trying to tell you nonverbally? When you ask, "How are you?" wait to see how they really are before you launch into your presentation.
- Effective connectors find kinesthetic connections with their audience to make sure the presentation will connect intellectually, emotionally and viscerally.