It’s all about self-awareness. The only way you can connect meaningfully with your presentation audiences is if you have a holistic view of yourself as a presenter. What is your public speaking style? How do you react in front of audiences and on-stage? What level of closeness do you try to maintain between yourself and your listeners? All of these questions deal directly with the development of connections during presentations. You’ve got to be able and willing to respond to these questions and determine your standard style of speaking. Take our Badge assessment to determine your presentation persona. After you discover which one of 16 profiles you are, read the corresponding book, What’s Your Presentation Persona? In the meantime, foster audience connections with these 3 helpful tips:

1. Get vulnerable.

Forget that merely scratching at the surface business. Your presentations are a chance to go deep; to demonstrate your unique human experience; to break the barriers between presenter and audience member. In the digital era that we live in, it’s easy to provide Twitter-like responses to real-life questions. It’s simple to distill your message to 160 characters of meaningless commentary and call it a day. If your goal is to develop an enriching relationship with your audience, however, you will not achieve it that way. Connection requires the shedding of a few layers of yourself in front of your event participants. Tell them the story about how you watched your dog get hit by a car outside of your home and started a leash mandate in your neighborhood because of it. Let others see you for who you are, not for who you think they want you to be.

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In Kimberly Motley’s TED Talk titled “How I defend the rule of law,” she began her message with a personal story about her time in Afghanistan.

“In 2008, I went to Afghanistan for a justice funded program, and I went there originally on this nine-month program to train Afghan lawyers.”

– Kimberly Motley, “How I defend the rule of law”

Her time in the country incited her to start taking on human rights cases for free. This is a perfect example of how going deeper can reinforce a main point.

2. Get goofy.

When it comes to your presentations, laughter really is the best medicine. To connect with your audiences, use humor in a way that is natural to and becoming of you. Don’t force it. You can even utilize a literary device such as a simile to find your way to your audience’s funny bone. This is what Carrie Nugent did in her recent TED Talk, “Adventures of an asteroid hunter.”

“Now, the reason I have this beautiful asteroid fragment is because, like all neighbors, asteroids sometimes drop by unexpectedly.”

– Carrie Nugent, “Adventures of an asteroid hunter”

As you could see from the video, Nugent used both humor and a prop to connect with her audience. This technique could only have been mastered through intense preparation and rehearsal. To effectively use humor, you must religiously do both.

3. Get proactive.

Know what your audience is going to ask before they ask it. Anticipate how they are going to respond to a statement before you make it. Decipher when it would be appropriate to include audience activities into your presentation. Map out most of the major elements of your presentation, while also remembering to practice thinking on your toes. Realize that you may get thrown a few curveballs, but that’s alright if you did the prep work weeks, or months, in advance of your performance. Finally, always include a motivational call to action.

Take, for example, this 2016 TED Talk by Jude Kelly. At the end of “Why women should tell the stories of humanity,” Kelly urges her audience to “make a change.” 

“Let’s make a change to all our institutions, and not just in the West. Don’t forget — this message of incapability of women to hold creative genius is being told to girls and women in Nigeria, in China, in Russia, in Indonesia. All over the world, girls and women are being told that they can’t finally hold the idea of creative inspiration. And I want to ask you: Do you believe that? Do you believe that women can be a creative genius?”

– Jude Kelly, Why women should tell the stories of humanity

Make time during the presentation creation practice to cultivate a call to action your audience can’t help but participate in.

For more information related to audience engagement and connection, review the following articles.

How Presenters Can Be Better Listeners

Fun Ways to Engage Your Audience

Season 2, Episode #13: Response [Podcast]

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