Why is it that when you’re listening to some presentations it feels like time flies, you are energised and you leave the room buzzing, and then there are those ones where you feel like you’re falling asleep, looking at your watch and thinking about what you will have for afternoon tea?
What makes the difference?
After all, the content could be robust, well researched and of a high standard in both presentations. The hours of preparation for the speakers might be similar. And both might be just as experienced in their field.
The missing ingredient for many presentations is building rapport with the audience.
Just as when you meet someone one on one, it is possible to build a connection and rapport in a short space of time, the same is true for connecting with an audience.
Building rapport is important because it:
- Creates trust
- Heightens engagement
- Shows people why what you have to say is important and relevant to them
- Establishes a common ground
- Helps you connect at a human level, not just at an intellectual one.
5 keys to building rapport with your audience:
First impressions matter
Your opening moments as a speaker can either set you off to a flying start or mean that you have to work a lot harder to win people over throughout. Be intentional about your opening – where you stand on the stage (preferably not hidden behind a lectern), have open body language, smile, be clear in your opening sentences, and trust that you have something to bring. Using humour in the opening minutes of your presentation can break down barriers and put people at ease (just avoid any jokes that could be offensive).
Take note of what has gone on in the room before
As a speaker you will be one slot on the program. The environment and atmosphere that has been set prior to you taking the microphone is largely out of your control. Some audiences will be energised, enthusiastic and keen to hear what you have to say. Other audiences may be tired, disengaged, and apathetic about being at this event. By being in the room for the previous session, as a speaker you can gauge where they are at, and how much energy you might need to put into lifting the room.
Focus on the audience and their understanding rather than on yourself
Your role as a communicator is to help the audience understand your message as clearly as possible. In any communication process there is interference between the message being sent and how it is received. As a speaker, you want to know your content well so that you don’t need to be thinking too much about it but rather be looking at your audience and seeing how well they are understanding it.
Read the audience
Throughout your presentation, you want to be picking up on cues that the audience is giving. This includes body language, laughter, vocal feedback, note taking and interactions. This can ebb and flow throughout the presentation, but you will notice that when there are long periods of dense cerebral content not broken up by stories, illustrations and interactive moments, eyes will start to glaze over. If you feel that the audience are at saturation point with your content, quickly shift gears with a quick activity, discussion or interaction.
Create texture and dynamics in your presentation
When listening to a concerto, there will be an array of dynamics and textures. Some passages are more complex, others are simple melodies. In your presentation you want the audience to experience crescendos, moments of high energy, and more reflective moments. Before you even present, think about your presentation and know which sections are which dynamic. That way, when reading your audience you can extend a certain section, increase the energy, or bring it down where needed.
About Claire Madden
Claire Madden (www.clairemadden.com) is a social researcher, keynote speaker and media commentator interpreting social trends and implications of generational change. As a keynote speaker, Claire is highly regarded for her dynamic and engaging presentations where she translates robust, research-based content into strategic applications for educators, managers and business leaders.
To invite Claire to speak at your next event, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 2 8091 4321.