How to Connect with Your Audience

Believe it or not, there is a science to connecting with your audience. It’s not just “stand up, tell a joke, state your business, and you’re done.” If you want your audience to be engaged, connected, and excited about your presentation, connections are vital.

So, how are you going to do that? Our brains are wired to be social, so they seek out social cues that they can connect with.

If you want your audience to think “I wanna be that guy!” (or girl) you have to “connect” with them. Now, don’t throw your hands up in the air and declare that this is too much to think about. It’s really not that hard if you break it down.

Tell Your Story

Your story should be told as an arc, the beginning building up to the meaty middle and then slowly coming down to the end. You can think of it as the best novel that you have ever read.

The beginning lays the groundwork and gets you invested in the rest of the story. Then comes that action, the middle of the book that keeps you turning page after page.

Then, Voila! The happy ending.

You can insert whatever you need to keep your audience engaged and committed to your story such as projections, handouts, or other materials. And make it easy for your audience to share your ideas, website, or contact information, either on social media or at the water cooler.

Our brains have a complex circuitry that thrives on connectivity. We want to connect with people like us. Social groups exist by bringing people together so that they can connect for a common purpose.

Your audience is listening to you because you have something they want. If they leave your presentation thinking, “Wow! I could do that!”, then you have been successful.

Connect

Body Language

Simple enough, huh? Don’t stand there with your hands in your pockets or your arms crossed in front of you.

Since 85% of what your audience remembers is going to be through your body language, you may want to practice.

Yeah, practice. Maybe in front of a mirror or a friend, or better yet, an enemy. Take the feedback constructively.

  • Are you animated, excited about the topic?
  • Do you look happy, welcoming, and professional?

You should be engaging, and somewhat entertaining. When you speak, you want people to lean into it.

Haven’t you ever been to a presentation and felt like the presenter is talking to you, and only you? You can achieve that too by making eye contact with several people. Look around the room and everyone will think you are talking to them. And smile. A lot.

You are going to want to look friendly, rather than uncomfortable or condescending. And don’t forget to dress for the audience. That doesn’t mean a tuxedo or ball gown. It simply means that you should look the way your audience does. If they have jeans and tees, then hop aboard that fashion train. Business suits? Well, you get it.

Engagement

Not the kind with the diamond ring and all. You want to engage — establish a meaningful contact or connection with — your audience. This can be either visual, auditory, or both. It can start by welcoming some of your audience before the presentation with handshakes and pleasant small talk.

Let them know that you are glad they are there. They will connect with you and will look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Zero in on some commonalities. It doesn’t matter if you are speaking to a group of accountants or swimming instructors, you are presenting because you have something in common.

They need to relate to you and what you are talking about. Maybe you all work for the same company. Tell a short anecdote about something that they can relate to.

Or what can they learn from you?

You have to speak to your audience at their level. You would not give the same presentation to a group of fifth-graders as you would a room of corporate attorneys.

Make that emotional connection.

Final Thoughts

What are you trying to get across to your audience? Let them feel joy, excitement or even anger if the situation calls for it. Maybe you want them to be angry because one of their competitors had the success that they want. Get them angry so that they can move forward into action.

Harness the emotion that will bring your audience to the desired call to action.