October 19, 2009

Only connect! 9 ways to do it

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"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die." ~ Howard's End

I love this statement: Only connect. It is the crux of human relationships, of course. And it is the crux of the speaker/audience relationship. You can have good material, perfect organization and skilled delivery, but if you don't connect with the audience, something critical is missing.

I also find that connecting "the prose and the passion" to be critical for a speaker, both internally and externally.

Connecting the prose and the passion internally means we are whole and complete; we are not ruled by either logic or emotion, but give both their equal time and weight. We don't value one over the other but embrace the practicality and benefits of both.

Externally, this translates to a speaker who is able to use facts and words as skillfully as emotion and expressiveness in engaging and impacting the audience. As Garr Reynolds says in his book "Presentation Zen." "A presentation is never just about facts."

How does one connect with an audience?

1. Find out who's in the audience so you can get to know them in advance and provide material that they care about. Come early to meet some of them.

2. Don't try to be perfect. It's not even possible, and the audience doesn't expect it.

3. Tell your own stories that illustrate your points. Your stories reveal a bit of who you are as a person, not just as a speaker.

4. Embrace your uniqueness and fall in love with the real you. When you're content with who you are, the audience can feel it.

5. Don't copy other speakers. Yes, learn from successful speakers, but don't copy their movements, their vocal cadence, their stories (yes, people do this!) or their style. You already have your own style. Develop that.

6. Add a personal touch to presentations. I use a picture of my cat in one presentation, Barbie dolls in another. I use props and images that I enjoy, that work for me, and happen to express something about who I am. Let the audience get to know you a little.

7. Be honest. If you mess up or forget your place, don't make a big deal about hiding your mistake unless it's so tiny no one will notice. If you need to go back and find your place, say so. Nobody cares.

8. Smile. Open up. Show warmth, humor and friendliness.

9. Stay after to talk to people.

Share in the comments how you connect with your audiences.

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6 comments. Please add yours! :

Business Communications Training said...

Great 9 points here. As a corporate trainer, I remember one of my bosses of long ago coaching me with these very points. Some I already had down and some, I had to be reminded of since I took a 2yr break from training. Now, its second nature!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comment, BCT. The methods don't really change, do they? We just need to be reminded occasionally. :-)

Anke Tröder (Germany) said...

I sincerely appreciate your down-to-earth-approach to public speaking.

Book after book is being published on presentation skills. Coaches and trainers are mushrooming everywhere, I feel. Yes, we have new media, new opportunities and I’d love to try them all. Yes, we need to move on. Yes, there is much to learn.

But the essence of it all, what’s left when you take away all technology, when the beamer fails, and when the notebook gives up, is the human touch. The art of connecting.

I keep finding that here :)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thank you so much for your comment, Anke. I do keep coming back to the human element; I can't help myself. :-)

Jill Foster said...

Great, core reminders Lisa. And a random curiosity for you: Do you find your clients are using social media tools to further develop their public speech confidence and conversational style (in addition to marketing use or customer service, etc)?

Thanks again for your blog.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Jill, I would say that most of my clients are fairly new to social media and are just getting started with the marketing aspect of it.

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