There are important components to any presentation: knowledge of the topic, clear communication, and interesting visuals. But perhaps none of these are as important as your ability to connect with your audience. You could be an expert on the topic and have the most outstanding slideshow, but if you fail to connect with your audience your presentation will be a failure. When you connect with an audience, you develop a sense of trust and credibility. They will have a more positive experience and are therefore more likely to retain the information. In many aspects, connecting with your audience is actually more important than researching the topic because if you pitch it to the wrong audience, use unfamiliar concepts, and fail to keep their attention the audience will react negatively. On the other hand, when you connect with an audience they become your allies. They are much more likely to pay attention to you and cooperate with you. Here are a few ways to build a stronger rapport with your audience.
Research Your Audience Beforehand
If you want to pull off a dynamic presentation you need to take time to research your audience and find out what motivates them. You need to know their age range, gender, group dynamics, prior knowledge of the topic, etc. You can’t give them the right information of you don’t know what you’re up against. For example, the way you approach a group of seniors would be quite different than a group of high school students. You want to keep your information as relevant as possible to each specific audience.
Meet and Greet
Another great way to connect with your audience is to get to know them a little better. Arrive early and spend some time talking to people before you present. Introduce yourself and find out a little bit about why they are there. This will help you tailor your speech to these specific people.
Establishing and maintaining eye contact as absolutely imperative in any presentation. Look people in the eye and hold that gaze for a few seconds before looking at someone else. When you make direct eye contact with someone during a presentation it can be powerful. Strategic eye contact empowers you to actually change how people think of you. It inspires a powerful connection between people.
Talk to Your Audience and Not at Them
Don’t think of your presentation as a speech. Rather, consider it a conversation. Actually talk to the people and use statements such as “we” and “us” when appropriate. The last thing people want is to be read to. If you choose to use a slideshow, make sure it is simply a point of reference and not your entire script.
Involve the Audience
If you want to connect with your audience you must engage them. Include them in your presentation by asking them to participate. You can do this through Q&A sessions, using an audience member as a prop, playing an interactive game with them, asking rhetorical questions. No matter how you choose to do it, encouraging audience participation is a great way to connect with them and keep their attention.