How To Make A Real Connection With Your Next Audience

You want to have a conversation with your audience
You want to have a conversation with your audience Image Credit: Christian Weidinger

When we give a speech, we don’t want to be standing on that stage all by ourselves. We understand that a speech really requires two parities to participate in it – the speaker and the audience. We know what we want to say, but the real challenge is finding ways to bring our audience along with us. We want to find way to develop a real connection with them during our speech. How can we go about doing this?

Making A Connection

You can think about good speech-making as being like a good conversation. If you think a great speech is just a performance, think again. Effective delivery, even to a large audience, can be intimate. Your delivery should be conversational with your audience. However, in most public speaking, there is too little give-and-take verbal interaction. When presenting a 20-minute speech, the speaker typically does all the talking. In a workshop, however, the leader or facilitator may actually end up speaking less than the participants. As you become a better speaker, you will become more skilled in conversation. When you become a better conversationalist, you then become a stronger speaker. One skill will reinforce the other. The power of conversational delivery is its tendency to make you a more believable speaker and therefore more likeable.

You want to think of your audience as a friend sitting across the table. You wouldn’t preach to them as though you were giving a speech. Don’t be a messenger who is delivering memorized words. Instead, be in the moment. Work to be authentic. Always be conversational. Some of the best speeches are the ones that are unplanned, or “in-the moment,” perhaps because the speaker tossed the notes aside and spoke from their heart. We should think of conversation and public speaking as being complementary. Each one of these types of communication enhances the other. Everyday conversation is something that requires you to think on your feet, or from your seat, and be spontaneous but not rambling. Having the confidence of knowing you have the ability to control your message, and thoughtfully adapt it to different audiences, is derived from public speaking experiences. For a rambling converser who too often speaks without any forethought, developing these skills can be immensely valuable.

Understand The Value of Eye Contact

It should be obvious that when you’re engaged in a conversation with one person that you’re involved in a one on-one process of communication. When you’re engaged in this type of conversation, you are focused on your conversation partner. During this type of conversation your eyes don’t wander when someone else enters the room. Dedicated eye contact is what makes a connection more intimate. Likewise, in public speaking, dedicated eye contact, like the kind used in a one-on-one conversation, creates a connection. This is accomplished when you make eye contact with one person in the audience at a time.

This technique of locking in eye contact with one individual will connect the speaker with every member of the audience. When you have created that true connection, others in the audience will feel included. They get the impression you are talking directly to them. This is because the person you’re making eye contact with is a member of the group. Members of an audience share a sense of community, so when you connect with one, you connect with all members of that group. When speaking before a group, you need to avoid the trap of thinking you’re speaking to several people at once, and resist the temptation to “spray the audience” with eye contact. The key here is to focus on one person while completing a thought. In a one-on-one conversation, this is easy to do, but it is challenging to maintain good eye contact while speaking to several people at once. If you remember to complete your thought before moving your eye to another audience member, you’ll make a true connection with the audience.

The active listener sends nonverbal signals to the speaker through their facial expressions, smiles, nods of agreement or questioning looks. The listener may not be actually speaking, but he or she is still communicating. If you are not maintaining eye contact, then you’re missing out on feedback provided by the audience. This idea contradicts that you may have been taught that advised speakers to look over the heads of the audience or, worse yet, to visualize audience members naked. The best public speaking is done heart to heart as well as mind to mind. It requires you to not only see your audience, but see that you are being seen by them.

Master Your Verbal Style

Another difference between conversation and public speaking is your level of formality in your words and verbal style. Your choice of language level should meet the requirements of your audience. Generally, public speakers are expected to employ a more formal tone. This is one that has been planned and rehearsed. A converser will use a more casual tone, one that can include slang, nicknames and standing jokes known only to those persons in the conversation. If you use an intimate vernacular with a stranger or client, it inappropriately suggests a relationship that doesn’t exist. Similarly, if you use a formal language with friends and family, it implies that there is a social distance that doesn’t fit. But a public speaker who seems too rehearsed may seem phony to others who expect spontaneity and even some pauses filled with ums and ahs. We need to realize that for most public speaking, a casual tone is too loose and therefore inappropriate.

What All Of This Means For You

Every time that we give a speech, we are doing it for a reason. We want to convince our audience about something. In order to make this happen, we need to get them to accept both us and our message. This can be a real challenge to do. What speakers need to do is to find a way to make a connection with their audience during their speech. This connection is what will motivate them to take the action that you want them to. Now all you have to do is to figure out how to make that connection.

One of the key things that every speaker needs to understand is that if we want to connect with our audience, we are going to have to deliver it in a conversational style. During our speech, if we want to connect with our audience we are going to have to establish and maintain eye contact with them. We need to be sure to do this one person at a time. Speakers need to understand that they have a verbal style. This style has to be matched to what their audience is expecting.

The reason that we give speeches is because we want to change the way that our audience thinks. If we want to make this happen, then we need to find a way to really connect with them. This is not an easy thing to do. However, the good news is that it can be done. The next time that you are creating a speech take a moment and consider how you will use it to connect with your audience. If you can get this right, you just might change the world with your next speech!

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

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to do eye contact the wrong way?

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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

When we give a speech, we want to find a way to connect with our audience and share the importance of public speaking. In order to make this happen, we need to use all of the tools that are available to us. We understand that this means that our vocal variety, the use of props, and even the pauses that we can work into our speech are critical to allowing us to create a bond with the people in our audience. However, we also need to understand that there is something else that is going on. While we are giving our speech, our body is also giving a speech. We need to find a way to allow our body language to help us deliver our next speech.