5 Ways to Connect with the Audience | Public Speaking Essentials

This article is a continuation of posts in a series on public speaking to help you stand out in a very competitive public speaking arena.

You'll stand in front of attendees today who are different from those last week. The question is, how do you connect with each audience before and after you arrive? There will be several opportunities to attract their attention, and you don't want to lose them once they step into the room either. Here are five important tips for connecting with your audience:

1. Social posts. Send out notifications to your email contact list once you book the engagement, a month in advance, and a week before your arrival. Link posts to the organization, or even similar associations in the area. You never know who may want to scout you out. Hashtag interesting and relevant articles or video to share with the audience leading up to the event. You want to get the audience interested in you and what you have to say. When you include a photo of yourself, you get recognized at the event, and people feel like they already know you.

Keep social posts light and detail-oriented. It sounds like common sense, but - no politics, no vulgarity, no criticism of religion, and no verbal attacks on others. This includes not just your professional image, but your PUBLIC persona on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites where attendees might wish to delve deeper into your background. I know of a very qualified speaker who didn’t get hired because photos of his drinking in excess and flipping the finger were out there for public viewing. Review and restrict your privacy settings.

2. Write captivating titles. How are you advertising yourself in the conference schedule? Write an attention-grabbing presentation title, because sometimes, that's all anyone reads. For example, if I’m going to present an early childhood math workshop to a room full of teachers, they might respond to a keynote entitled, “Math, Motion, and Connecting the Thoughts: Strategies for Supporting Early Mathematical Competencies in Young Children,” while a group of licensed child care providers might respond better to, “It’s NEVER Math Time. It’s ALWAYS Math Time. Marching Early Math Through the Day!” which is much less intimidating.

Over the years, I’ve seen attendance spike up in my workshops, or drop down, depending on which title I use. There’s no reason to fly across the country and speak to 70 people when you could have had better attendance by simply paying attention to your title and description. Even when you are the keynote, attendees have a choice of whether to show up early enough to see you speak, or sleep in and hit the first workshop.

3. Write accurate descriptions. I’ve attended music workshops with no music, movement workshops with no movement, and science workshops with no science. Don’t list anything in the description you don’t plan to do or have time to present. Make sure your key points are early in your presentation, so you don't run out of time. Make connections between what attendees know or are already interested in and the speech topic.

4. Adapt your speech to your audience. Change your conversational style to match the audience you are trying to reach after considering their knowledge of the subject, level of fluency in your language, experience in the area, and other qualities. There is a big difference between an academic lecture and a PTA luncheon. Your anecdotes should be relevant to the audience’s experiences. Know when to keep things light and humorous, when to be informal, or when to be formal and serious. Just like on your social media, be careful what you refer to during your presentation. Do your homework. Be aware of local news stories. Be sensitive to significant events in or around the area that may influence your audience’s mood, such as a major sports loss, natural disaster, loss of life, layoffs, a company closure, or bad political climate.

5. Understand the culture of the audience. Images and phrasing you use should embrace the ethnicity in front of you and make them feel understood. I once attended a keynote to an African American audience that featured photos of Caucasian children on every slide. A simple adjustment to half of her photos would have made her presentation pop, but she never took the time. Also, remember, what is funny in English, may be offensive to another culture. What is appropriate for one gender may be insulting to another. The same goes for religious beliefs, financial status, level of education, age, and so forth.

Thank you so much for clicking in to read my post. Feel free to comment and share your tips on this subject.

Angela Russ is a mom-preneur, educational trainer, award-winning children’s author and producer of music for young children. She has 14-years of experience in presenting music & movement concepts to child care providers, parents, and early childhood teachers nationwide. She is a voting member of the Recording Academy with over 1.5 million in record sales and is the sole owner of the Russ InVision Company. For more information on Angela, her workshops and accomplishments you are welcome to visit www.abridgeclub.com.

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