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Connect with Your Audience

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Twenty-first century presenting is very different to how it used to be in the past. What I want to share with you right now is how you can connect with your audience. Personally, I don’t think people come just to hear information — they come to be engaged. Let’s have a conversation about how you do that.

I’ve been to so many presentations and the audience is absolutely disengaged with the presenter. Even right now, just behind my camera guy, there’s a workshop happening. I can pretty much guarantee that half, if not more, of the presenters are missing the audience. People want to be engaged, they want to be connected with, they want to be understood, and so often the presenter misses that.

Here are 3 strategies that I use to make sure that my audience connects with me:

1. Don’t read your slides. Have you ever been to a presentation that’s like a death by PowerPoint? People stand in front of the presentation and just click through it? And you think, Why don’t you just send me the slides? It will take me five minutes to read them instead of listening to you for half an hour reading them. It’s not a ‘reading’; you want to hear a ‘presentation.’ I read books to my son; he’s one year old. Don’t read to an audience of adults; speak to them, talk to them.

2. Look into people’s eyes. Originally, when I was taught presenting, they told me to scan across the back of people’s heads when you’ve got a large audience, don’t look directly into their eyes and it will help you with your nerves. I think it’s total crap. You need to actually look into people’s eyes. Have a moment where you connect with them. In the movie Avatar, they had these crescendo moments where the woman stops and looks at the lead actor and says “I see you.” They connect. You need to have those ‘I see you’ moments in your presentation when you look someone in the eye and connect with them. But don’t wink at them, because that’s weird… no one likes weird people.

3. Share a personal story. Every time I get up and present, I think about what’s a personal story that I can share that will help me connect with the audience. Brené Brown, an amazing thought leader around vulnerability, talks about the power of vulnerability and that when you share a little bit of you, people feel connected to you and feel like they’re on the same journey as you. People love vulnerability. If you can share a personal story even if it’s just a story about growing up or your first job or interaction you had in the office the other day, people will connect with you. Twenty-first century presenting isn’t about just sharing information; it’s about engaging your audience through connection.

That’s today’s tip.

I’ve got a question for you: What has been the biggest mistake that you’ve seen presenters make that annoys you or makes you disengage? Please share this in the comments below.

Look forward to speaking to you soon. Look after yourself.

 

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4 comments
    Tim Dee On the very first day of my professional career (many many years ago) I was told never to put my hands in my pockets when I presented. Why? Because people will always think to themselves “what’s he doing with his hands?”… And so, whenever I see someone else presenting with his hands in his pockets, I ask myself the same question… It’s highly distracting.


    Oh, and please please purrrlease NEVER EVER EVER read from a pre-prepared script unless you’re HM Chancellor of the Exchequer delivering the annual budget in Parliament. Or you have an autocue that we can’t see.
      Colin Boyd Hi Tim, thanks so much for the comment. The little idiosyncrasies that we have can definitely be distracting for the audience hey:-) I like your analogy at the end I think that’s the only time someone can read from the PowerPoint ha ha.
      Tania Harris Or when you’re conducting weddings and funerals and you don’t want to mix up the names…
    Karelynne Randall Your lessons are so relatable! I agree, nothing like a story and ‘catching the eye’ of someone who’s engaged in that… the effect is powerful for the presenter and flows right throughout the audience.

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