Sunday, October 16, 2011

4 Super Tips to Connect with an Audience

1. Avoid Using Jargon or Industry Lingo

Whether you are speaking or writing, don't use acronyms. If you do, you are likely to lose half your audience momentarily as their brains depart in search of the meaning. Some acronyms like LOL and ASAP are so familiar that we all know them, but others are newer or more industry-specific, so the mention of POTUS or CMOS is immediately clear and understandable to some but not to others.

Steve Jobs steered clear of jargon and was a master at using everyday language and speaking in a conversational style. He knew his audience wanted two things from him: to be clear and simple in rhetoric and product!

2. Use Eye Contact and Facial Expression to Establish Rapport

One of the reasons Gov. Chris Christie has been successful in his legal and political career is that his eye contact reinforces his rhetoric. Watch when he speaks and note that his eye contact, facial expression and rhetoric are in sync so there is absolutely no confusion about his intent or message. Generally we respond favorably to direct, unfiltered straight talk.

In contrast was Rick Perry’s debate performance in Hanover, New Hampshire, last week. He looked weak and uncomfortable during most of the debate. How do we know? His eyes, often called the "windows of the soul," conveyed his tentativeness and insecurity. His entire physical presence seemed to convey feelings that he would have preferred to be anywhere other than at the debate table at Dartmouth College.

3. Work and Rework Your Core Message

"You must simplify. You must make the complex simple, then you must make it work." ~ I.M. Pei, Master Architect

"This is a very complicated world, it's a very noisy world. And we're not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us." ~ Steve Jobs to Apple employees, 1997

In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers lead with Principle 1: Simplicity as essential to stripping an idea to its core (i.e., the Golden Rule found in all world religions).

You must strip your message to the core and then speak to it.

4. Meet and Connect with Your Audience before Your Presentation.

This is not always possible, but I've found it's a great way to reduce your nervousness and get connected with who's in the audience and perhaps hear what they're looking for. Having met some audience members in advance, your comfort level will rise and you will see that the room is no longer filled with strangers. You can begin with friendly, familiar faces in the audience. By circulating before you speak, you have set the stage for a more satisfying experience for you and the audience.

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