Connect With Your Audience From Your Desk

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Delivering an effective presentation hinges on connecting with one’s audience. But that connection starts well before you get up and speak. Here are three ways to connect with your audience while you prepare the content of your presentation:

1. Research your audience

To whom will you be speaking? Understanding who they are and where they are coming from is key to connecting with them in the content, and will guide you in determining what to include in your presentation.

Try to find out what you can about them. If it’s a large group, ask the organizers who will be attending. What is their background? What’s the breakdown of the audience? Why are they there? If it’s a group of meeting planners, check out a Linked In group or trade organization site to see what concerns and interests them.

If it’s a small group, research the attendees. If colleagues have dealt with them before, ask about their personalities. If possible, as the attendees directly what they would like to get out of the presentation.

Some questions to look at:

  • Who are they? What is their area of expertise? (Will help you determine what angle to take)
  • What are their needs and interests as related to your topic? (Will determine the goals and main messages of your presentation and which aspects of your topic to cover.)
  • How do they feel about you, your organization? (You may need to tread carefully or you may want have a more casual, friendly tone)
  • What is their level of knowledge about the topic at hand? (Will they understand jargon? How in depth can you go? Will analogies help?)
  • Considering the above answers, how can you best touch them?

Which leads me to #2.

2. Include real-life stories and examples that will involve them on a human level

Theory is great, but the audience will feel much more connected with you on an authentic, human level if you back your points with real-life stories and examples. Even better if you can incorporate an experience they have had — something from their frame of reference — into your presentation. And that “story” can be as short as a few words.

When addressing a group of store managers, one speaker (VP in charge) was talking about increasing storage room space and referred to the problem by saying, “You know, the stock rooms you can’t turn around in?”

That elicited a slew of images and feelings for those store managers who had such overcrowded stock rooms that if they made one wrong move, boxes would tumble onto their heads. (Chuckles were heard in the room…) They felt understood by the speaker, and were thus more open to his message.

3. Address their concerns

Media trainers in crisis management recommend addressing the sticky issue before it hits the media, and presenters should do the same. If there is a touchy issue (poor sales, management turnover, etc.) better to address it yourself. Include that issue as one of the points in your presentation and you can put a positive — or at least less damaging — spin on it.

If you ignore the elephant in the room, listeners will find you dishonest. They may confront you on the subject in Q an A and then you will look like you were trying to pull a fast one on them. By facing sticky issues in an honest and straightforward fashion, you will become more credible and trustworthy, and listeners will be more likely to buy into whatever it is you are trying to convince them of, or take whatever action you would like them to take.

Try these ways of connecting when you craft your next presentation. When you create “connected’ content and connect with the audience while you deliver it, you will see how involved and responsive they become.


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