A Short Note on How to Relate to Your Audience

A friend came up to me a few weeks ago to ask, “Gary, how exactly can I relate to the audience”?

You see, my friend has been trying his darndest at delivering inspirational project speeches at a certain Toastmasters Club in Singapore when he encountered a nagging difficulty at capturing and moving his audience.

Very rightly, he had identified the key issue that was lacking in his speeches – relating to the audience. How exactly do we relate to the audience? What are the underlying principles behind it? What are the techniques involved?

Well, have I got good news for you! There are several strategies we can use to relate to the audience! Of course, it’ll take eternity for me to list them all down… and I’m also pretty sure that we’ve all got enough time to finish reading ALL of them!

So, for the benefit of all you busy people out there, I’ll start by sharing a basic principle first, followed by 3 simple strategies which I use… and then take my time to follow up with more later! *winks*

Are you ready for them?

Here they are!

1. Feel Your Audience!

No! Keep your hands to yourself! What I mean by “Feeling Your Audience” requires you to sense and match your audience’s emotional level.

Understand their fears. Note their moods. Are they warm or are they dull? Are they all hyped up and ready to go at 8am in the morning, or lethargic and dreary at 7pm at night? Or vice versa?

Did something significant happen earlier during the day? In the country, in the state or in the office?

You get the drift!

It’s simple to “Feel Your Audience”. All you need is a some good ol’ observation skills and sense of empathy to get the “feelin’ goin'”

Lesson One: Be Observant

2. Choice of Words – Hedging

“I’m sure you know”… “I know that you feel…”, “Everybody knows that…”

Personally, I feel that the three examples listed above are taboo words which we should avoid using. Take note, I’d personally recommend avoid using them. I did not say that you must!

What exactly am I trying to get across here?

In our haste to make a statement, or get our points across, we sometimes forget that our views are not representative of everybody’s. And when we use words like “I’m sure everybody feels the same way…” or “I’m sure you know/believe…”, we’re positioning ourselves in a fairly weak position as a speaker.

The reasons behind these are simple. ‘Absolutes’ are almost impossible to defend. Think about it: When we use the term “everyone”, or “I’m absolutely sure…”, are you absolutely positive that everyone else in the whole wide world agrees with you? Have we conducted the necessary research and surveyed the necessary people to show that absolutely everyone agrees with what we feel, think or have to say?

I’m sure you know what I mean. *winks*

You would notice that that many speakers often use words that allow them room for maneuvering. Often, this involves ‘hedging’ words such as “most”, “may”, “chances are”, “high chance that”, “substantial/significant” etc.

You may realise that, with the use of Hedging, our credibility is boosted and we’re better able to represent and relate to the audience – simply because we’re now relating to MORE of them by showing an understanding that not everyone necessarily thinks like the way we do , or the way some other people do.

Lesson Two: Use Hedging Words

3. Building Rapport Right from the Start

One of the secrets used by some of the best speakers I’ve met involve building rapport with the audience right from the start! That’s right, they approach their audience and get to know them a little better individually first.

Thereafter, armed with the background and profiles of some members of your audience, you’re all set to speak to your friends in the audience, and use their experiences to help you get your points across.

Incorporating your audience in your speeches can pay huge dividends for you. Quite simply, it shows that you understand and are able to weave your audience’s feelings and concern into your presentations and speech!

Lesson Three: Know your Audience and Incorporate them in your Presentation!

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