Effective Communication: Connecting with an Audience

I hope that the past few weeks have provided some great insight and tools to help you continue your journey to genuinely connect with others. This week, the focus turns to our opportunities to speak in front of an audience. In my opinion, this is the hardest of the three that we have covered. I hope the following paragraphs provide some great insight from John Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, that will help you be more effective that next time that you are asked to speak in front of an audience.

Here are a few topics we will briefly touch on this week:

  • Before You Give the Speech
  • Connecting with Non-Verbals
  • Placing High Value on Your Audience
  • How to Be Interesting
  • Connecting is More Skill than Natural Talent
  • Connectors Inspire People
If you are involved in any kind of business, having a good product or service isn’t enough. Becoming an expert on your product or service isn’t enough. Knowing your product but not your customers will mean having something to sell but no one to buy. And the value you place on others must be genuine.
— John Maxwell

Before You Give the Speech

There are two questions that I ask myself as I am preparing to speak in front of a group:

  • “What are the bare essentials that I need to communicate for people to understand it?”

  • “How can I make those few essential points memorable?”

Another great practice before speaking in front of a group is to make the speech to a single person. Once you are finished, ask for feedback: what worked, didn’t work, how were my non-verbals, etc.?

Connecting with Non-Verbals

Connecting with an audience is probably the most challenging of the three because it is mostly from a stage and reliant on our own words. Here are three immediate improvements that you can make to your nonverbal communication at the beginning of a presentation:

  • Connect visually by smiling. This lets people know you’re happy to be communicating with them.
  • Connect intellectually by pausing strategically to give the audience time to think about something you’ve said.
  • Connect emotionally through facial expressions, laughter, and tears.

Place High Value on Your Audience

It goes without saying, but how you view the people that you are connecting with is incredible vital. Your attitude towards your audience matters. When speaking to an audience, focus on a few important things:

  • Express your appreciation for them and the occasion as soon as you can.
  • Do something special for them if you can, such as preparing unique content for them and letting them know that you have done so.
  • See everyone in the audience as a “10,” expecting a great response from them.
  • As you finish speaking, tell them how much you enjoyed them.

How to Be Interesting

Another vitally important question most speakers ask: “How do I avoid boring the living daylights out of people?” Maxwell gives seven tips to how to be interesting:

  1. Take responsibility for your listeners
  2. Communicate in their world
  3. Capture people’s attention from the start
  4. Activate your audience
  5. Say it so it sticks
  6. Be visual
  7. Tell stories
When the speaker is insecure, he will seek approval from his audience. And the more he wants to seek approval from them, the more engrossed he becomes in himself and how he can impress others. As a result, he is more likely to fail to meet the needs of the moment.
— Keng Sheng

Connecting is More Skill than Natural Talent

  • Show interest in your audience. When possible, meet and greet audience members before you speak. While speaking, let people know that you understand that each person is unique and special.
  • Place value on each person by letting them know you spent a lot of time preparing your talk because you value them, their purpose, and their time.
  • Put the people first by letting them know you are there to serve them. I do this by being willing to answer questions, making myself available to interact with people after a speech, and being available to sign books.
  • Express gratitude to them and thank them for their time.

Which of these can you use to enliven your communication?

Connectors Inspire People

  • They should see that you enjoy being with them and want to help them.
  • They should feel that you are their friend.
  • They should feel that you are authentic, and vulnerable - not perfect, but growing.
  • They should feel you are conversing with them, not talking down to them.
  • They should feel that you believe in them and they can believe in themselves.
To be successful in the long run, you need to do more than connect. You need to keep connecting, and you can do that only when you live what you communicate.
— John Maxwell