A leader who loses his connection to his people soon loses the ability to lead them.~ Robert Ley
When you are speaking to an audience, you are their leader. As Ley says, you have to have a strong connection with those you lead if you want to be effective. You can start build that connection long before you take the stage. There are three steps you can take before your presentation to make sure you make the biggest difference possible for your audience: Research, Write and Mingle.
The group that is your audience has its own personality. There are many factors that bring that particular group of people together. The more you know about the group as a whole, the more prepared you will be to connect with them when you arrive. Research the group you are going to present to. As you research, your goal is to find the groups LARGE HIPS.
Location – Where do the audience members live and work? What’s noteworthy about the location?
Age – Does the group have an common age bracket? What are the characteristics of that age bracket?
Religion – Is there a common religious view across the audience?
Gender – Are they all male or female?
Education – What assumptions can you make about their education level based on the group?
Hobbies – Do they have common spare time activities?
Interests – What goals do the audience members share? How does your message help?
Politics – Is there a political view that you need to be aware of or can leverage?
Status – What has been going on with the group lately?
Research your audiences LARGE HIPS. Read their website. If they have a newsletter, get the past few issues and read them. Ask your contact person if you can interview a few key members to learn about the group. Google their name and find out what others say. The more you know, the stronger your connection will be!
Now that you know about your audiences LARGE HIPS, you need to put that information to use. There are two ways to use it to build a connection.
The first use of your research is to tailor your presentation. Don’t rewrite it from the ground up, but look for areas where you can refer to what you learned about the group. Can you appeal to their interests based on what you now know? Are there references on their website that tie in with your speech? Adjust your presentation to show that you understand the group and have a connection with them.
The second use of the information is one of the strongest connection building tools in your kit. It’s absolutely vital yet many speakers don’t put the right emphasis on it. The tool I am referring to is your introduction. Two quick points: You MUST have an introduction and it’s a terrible idea to let the host make it up. With that in mind, you want to write an introduction that connects you with the audience.
You need to write a strong introduction that will build your connection with the audience. Your introduction should not be a bio – that’s boring! With what you know about the group, create an introduction that shows you understand them. Include points that show why would they want to listen to you in particular. Also, tie your presentation topic to the group’s interest. Tell them what benefit they will gain or what problem they will solve by listening to your presentation. A strong introduction will get the audience interested in you and your topic by telling them what’s in it for them.
The third and final opportunity I want to share with you occurs at the speaking venue, right before your speech. You should arrive at a speaking event early and there are a lot of good reasons for that. One reason in particular is to build your connection. Too often speakers think of the audience as a single entity, and in many respects it is. But, you can’t lose sight of the fact that the audience is made up of individuals. Before your speech, take time to meet some of the individuals. Talk to them about the group they are a member of. Ask what drew them there today. Talk about their experiences in the group. Ask questions to learn about the individual and form a connection with them.
Depending you your experience and comfort level, you may be able to work some of what you learned during mingling into your presentation. Mention the person’s name or their experience in the group. Make a relevant connection between their story and your presentation.
If you aren’t ready to customize your speech on the spot, you can still build a connection. While you are speaking, find the people you spoke with before the presentation. Make strong eye contact with them. This will draw them in and keep them engaged. It will also help you to relax and feel like you are talking to people you know. The whole audience will pick-up on this subtle change and the atmosphere of the whole room will relax.
I have given you three areas to help build your connection with the audience before you even start speaking. The first was to research the group’s LARGE HIPS. The second is to craft a strong introduction and the third is to meet a few of the individuals that make up the audience. Putting these three tips to use will help you to take your passion, your energy, your knowledge and send it to the audience through a strong connection so you can make a difference in their lives!