“Great job, you really connected well with the audience!”
That was the quote from the client who had booked me today. Good to hear of course as a speaker, but how do you create good connections with the audience?
As a speaker I actually often get the feedback that I was “good at connecting with the audience”, and it is usually said with the tone of “I wish more speakers would do it too.”
So how do you connect with the audience, especially when speaking to larger groups?
Let me start by saying that “connecting with the audience” doesn’t necessarily mean having the audience be highly active (by standing up, high-five-ing their neighbour or things like that.)
But it does mean delivering a speech where the audience feel they are part of the presentation.
There are many different ways of doing it, but today I will talk about one: Eye contact.
If you are able to get eye contact with a few people during your speech that human connection which that creates builds a connection to the whole group.
So look for a few happy and positive persons in the audience (not to far away and not too close to the stage) and establish eye contact with them.
The problem that some speakers do when it comes to eye contact is that they use the connection that is established to try to get energy from the other person.
It can be done by:
a) Speaker looking for validation. (Saying with their eyes: “please like what I am saying, please support me.”)
b) Speaker trying to convince. (Asking with their eyes: “you agree with what I am saying right?”)
But the purpose of establishing eye contact is not to help you as a speaker, or to give you energy. The purpose of establishing eye contact is to make the person you are connecting with feel like you are listening to them.
With your eyes say: “Hello, my friend, so happy you are here. What can you teach me? Who are you? What do you want to know? Tell me what you want.”
Establishing eye contact is not about “I-contact” or “you-contact” – it’s about “them contact”.
It’s about connecting to the audience by connecting with a few of them.
It’s about listening with your eyes – not talking with your eyes.
So what happens when you do this?
The person who you connect with feels “seen”.
And we all know that when someone feels “seen” they get empowered, energised, happy and confident.
The rest of the audience can feel this and this positive feeling spreads through the group.
When you have this approach to connecting with the audience the audience will feel that you were engaging with them – and all you did was to look at them.
Sometimes the simplest of speaking strategies are the most powerful, and often those successful strategies are forgotten by many speakers.
Don’t be one of those speakers.
See your audience by establishing true, non selfish eye contact with a few of them.
(Picture from a previous speech I did as I dit not have a photographer with me to todays speech.)