My son’s Sophomore English teacher started the school year going from student to student in each class, shaking hands with every person. It lasted just a few days and kind of freaked out the already edgy 15-year-olds, but it got me thinking! How DO people break through and connect with an audience?
While every audience is different, there are indeed tricks of the trade in making sure you connect with that audience, no matter how big or small.
Marcus Buckingham is an author (First, Break All the Rules) and, because of the success of his books, he is also a speaker. Here is his description of the routine he goes through before a speech:
“Twenty minutes before my speech was due to begin, as I always do, I slipped into the back of the hall to see the stage from the audience’s point of view and to get a sense of how I would need to project myself in order to reach the most distant eyes and ears.” From The One Thing You Need to Know.
Even if you have no plans (or desires) to address four thousand Walgreen’s employees (as Buckingham was about to do in this example), there are still lessons to be learned.
First, before making any kind of presentation, be sure you “know the room.” Does it help you? Are there potential pitfalls built into that room? Noise levels? Visual distractions? If there is a sound system, is it working and powerful enough for the room’s size? Every detail should be considered by you or someone with your best interests in mind. If you aren’t checking the room, the person who is should have the ability to fix those problems before anyone from the audience enters the room.
Second, what about that audience? What do you know about them? Anyone who has been with me for awhile knows my company slogan is, “Know Your Audience, Exceed Their Expectations.” That should be exactly your game plan going into ANY presentation. If you stand up and do a ho-hum job of the speech, that’s what the audience will conclude, if they even give what you had to say a second thought. The more you know about the audience the more you’ll be able to reach them with something that will be meaningful for THEM, no matter how important YOU may think it is.
Finally, take a page from the sophomore English teacher. Go around the room and get to know a few of the people. Learn a few names and gather some material that may come in handy along the way. Anytime you make a specific reference to someone or something in the room, the audience will appreciate your thought and attention. Without it, you’ll just be another canned speech that will be forgotten before you leave the room!