Monday, March 11, 2013

Tips to Help You Make That Connection

Back in November 2011, Dorothy Rabinowitz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and commentator, wrote in the Wall Street Journal about Newt Gingrich and his rise in the polls due to his debate performances.

Rabinowitz closed her editorial by musing that “No candidate in the field comes close to his talent for connection. There’s no underestimating the importance of such a power in the presidential election ahead or any other one.”

Despite his considerable ability to connect with an audience, Newt didn’t get the nomination. When the debates were finished, front runner Mitt Romney proved again and again that he had little talent to move voters emotionally or get out the vote. President Obama, meanwhile, continued to perform before adoring crowds, effectively illustrating his ability to engage and connect with voters.

I recently attended the AGC Partners Information Securityand Emerging Growth Conference in San Francisco. At noon – 12:05, to be exact – I slipped into an aisle seat just in time to hear a keynote speech by Thomas Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems and CEO of his most recent software company, C3 Energy.

Siebel began his presentation by immediately coming down from the stage at the far end of the room and walking briskly up the center aisle, all the while talking and making eye contact with as many in the audience as possible. His enthusiasm for what C3 Energy was accomplishing was contagious. Siebel was having a good time and clearly wanted us to join him.
 
His slides could have benefited from clearer design and larger type, but Siebel nevertheless used them well because I found myself concentrating hard to decode the graphics and understand the message. His delivery was so persuasive that despite my misgivings, I found myself wanting to please him, connect with him, and engage with his story.
 
Within minutes we were all in the speech together as Siebel became a cheerleader, explaining the early success of C3 Energy. He made a connection with his audience on many levels, and the positive energy flowing between the audience and speaker was quite amazing.
 
For a connection to be successful, energy and enthusiasm must flow both ways. Imagine a line of arrows on a circulating conveyor belt and you’ll begin to understand the physics of an unbroken connection.
 
So how do you master the dynamics of connecting successfully with an audience? Speak often and be enthusiastic and passionate about what you have to say. I suspect Tom Siebel has given hundreds of speeches. But regardless of the number of speeches he’s delivered, his speech had a freshness and newness that could come only from a genuine desire to teach and share his vision.
 
Making a dynamic and memorable connection with an audience may sound easy, but it isn’t.  It takes practice and lots of it. It means ramping up your enthusiasm and working the crowd, whether in a small room or conference hall. It means caring about the quality of the experience gained by the people who have come to hear you speak. It means experimenting with humor or pathos, as both can work wonders in forging a connection.
 
Study master communicators. No time? Check a news feed. Today the new Pope Francis is in the news constantly and displaying an ability to connect with old and young through his humility and straightforward style.


Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York who was also in the running, has a different way of communicating. He isn’t afraid to use emotion and is a skilled humorist who delights in turning the negative into a positive.
 
When asked about the church teachings, Dolan described them as a gift and said, “Let’s perhaps work on a way to wrap it in a more attractive way.” Whether in Italy or New York, Cardinal Dolan has an infectious ability to connect with an audience by delivering enthusiasm and joy.
 
Making a connection usually means wanting to change hearts and minds, to share knowledge, to make sure that the audience leaves with more than they expected to get.

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