Connect With Your Next Audience By Using Cultural References

Invite culture to be a part of your next speech
Invite culture to be a part of your next speech
Image Credit: Peter Kurdulija

Every time that we give a speech, we want our audience to enter the speech and to share it with us. We’ll try a lot of different techniques to show the importance of public speaking and to make this happen such as using humor, powerful quotes, and trying very hard to make our speech relevant. However, we don’t always succeed. What are we missing here? It turns out that one of the most powerful ways to connect with your next audience is to include cultural references in your speech.

What Is A Cultural Reference?

I guess one of the most important questions that we should start our discussion with is understanding just exactly why a speaker may not connect with his or her audience. There the speaker is, up on a stage, and down in the audience they hear the words that are being spoken. However, the words are not registering – it just sounds like the speaker is droning on and on. What’s missing in this scenario is that the speaker has been unable to tap into something that the listener cares about. Sure the speaker cares about what they are talking about; however, the audience does not.

The purpose of adding cultural references to your next speech is to find that “hook” or that thing that will cause your audience to sit up and take notice of what you are saying. You want them to connect with what you say when you make the reference and then start to pay attention to everything else that comes out of your mouth. The whole purpose of adding cultural references to a speech is to draw your audience into your speech.

The way that you go about doing this is to start by understanding your audience. What is their age? Where do they come from? In order to make references that they’ll understand, you need to know these things. Once you’ve got this under control, you can start to do your homework to find the fairy tales, classical poetry or literature, or even popular music, television shows, or movies that your audience will know about. These will provide you with the sources of cultural references that you’ll need for your speech.

How Can You Include Cultural References In Your Next Speech?

Knowing that you want to add cultural references to your next speech and then actually doing it are two separate things. Your goal has to be to connect with your audience on multiple levels: personal, emotional, and culturally significant. The best part about this approach is that it can be accomplished by using very few words. Sometimes only one sentence is required.

Adding a reference to something that both you and your audience know about such as fairy tales, classical poetry or literature, or even popular music, television shows, or movies is your way of telling them “We share something in common. Accept me because I am like you.

When you are selecting the cultural references that you’ll use in your speech, make sure that you pick carefully. What you are going to want to do is to select references that are going to allow you to connect with the broadest audience with the least amount of explanation being required. You need to realize that the older material such as fairy tales and classic stories are learned by everyone, pop music and current movies have a much shorter shelf life!

What All Of This Means For You

The dream for every speaker is to be able to connect with your audience. What seems like it should be so very easy to do turns out to be quite difficult to do. We generally try a number of different ways to accomplish this, but often with mixed results that can end up diluting the benefits of public speaking.

A clever way to make this elusive connection is to work some cultural references into your next speech. These references can take many different forms: fairy tales, classic poetry and literature, or even popular music or television shows. By including these references that your audience will recognize into your speech you’ll be able to draw them into your speech.

It’s not easy to add cultural references into a speech that won’t disrupt the flow of your speech or confuse your audience. To add the right references, you are going to have to take the time to do some real homework. However, in the end, the result will be a speech that your audience will never forget.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it might be possible to add too many cultural references to a single speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Awhile back, writer Dave Zielinski got together with Marilyn Vos Savant and had a chat with her about the importance of public speaking and how we can all be more effective at delivering the benefits of public speaking. If you don’t know who Marilyn is, she’s been identified as one of the smartest people in the world. Clearly, whatever she has to say about speaking should be of at least some interest to those of us who never ranked that highly on the IQ test…

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