How to Connect with the Audience

This week in the world’s #1 newsletter on leadership communication:

  • How to Become a Superconnector
  • Communication Secrets for Unleashing Innovation
  • Radical Candor Meets Radical Respect

How to Connect with the Audience

What’s the secret to talks and presentations that work?

The presenter has mastered the art of audience connection.

Great speakers and presenters aim for connection, not perfection.

That allows them to get their message across and move others to their desired outcome.

I know from my own experience that it can be hard to create a bond with the audience.

A few years ago I was invited to give a presentation at a client’s HQ. I naively expected an open-minded audience.

Instead, I was confronted with skepticism and tough questions.

Later I learnt that the threat of job cuts was hanging over the business, and that the mood was tense.

(In critical situations, external input is often seen as a message from management to “step it up”, so understandably people get defensive.)

Here are 15 simple ways to help you become a superconnector, starting with the insight I gained in that situation:

#1 Understand the audience’s state of mind

Are they open or skeptical? Is their job to poke holes into your argument, or are they there to learn? Use framing and priming to shift their state of mind.

#2 Show up as yourself

All the great speakers do. It is hard to connect with someone who plays a role.

#3 Make a great first impression

You have 7 seconds before people have formed a solid impression of you. Be on time, practice your “hello”, and show up with confidence.

#4 Bring gifts

Nourishment appeals to our instinctive brain. A box of chocolates or a fruit basket goes a long way.

#5 Make eye contact

Look me in the eye – long enough to connect but not so long as to qualify as staring.

#6 Know their names and interests

Everyone loves the sound of their names, and referring to someone’s interests shows you care.

#7 Connect emotionally BEFORE talking facts

Take the audience on a journey from the instinctive to the emotional to the factual. Be vulnerable, share a personal story.

#8 Avoid boring slides and jargon

These create barriers between you and the audience. Slides are for the audience, not the presenter.

#9 Use your voice as an instrument

Aim for vocal variety instead of a monotonous monologue. People are drawn to interesting voices.

#10 Move the audience from passive to active

Questions, polls, interactive storytelling ensure your audience is actively involved instead of passively listening.

#11 Use positive body language

Smile, nod, an open posture – these show that you can be trusted.

#12 Avoid physical barriers

Don’t hide behind a desk or lectern. Ensure the audience can see you.

#13 Listen empathetically and be fully present

Give the audience your full attention. When you get questions, move towards the questioner.

#14 Create energy

Passion is infectious. Create sparks of excitement.

#15 Show that you care by following up

Send a thank you or follow up note – few do it, yet it is highly effective.

Connection isn’t everything, but without connection nothing else matters much.


Communication Secrets for Unleashing Innovation

My podcast guest this week is the former Head Innovation Coach of a 3-Trillion-Dollar Company.

J.D. Meier spent 25 years at Microsoft where he was head coach for CEO Satya Nadella’s innovation team, driving one of the most exciting corporate turnarounds of the Century from corporate has-been to world’s most valuable company.

J.D. shares highly actionable advice on clear and direct messaging, the significance of structured storytelling with data, how to use conversation frameworks like the double diamond, how to apply Bill Gates’ “precision questions and precision answering” technique, and how to speak from the top by applying the pyramid principle.

Give it a listen – these powerful techniques will improve your communication at work, ensuring your ideas are heard and valued.

Listen on Spotify and Apple:


Radical Candor Meets Radical Respect

"Radical Respect: How to Work Together Better" by Kim Scott builds on the principles she introduced in her best-selling book, "Radical Candor."

Radical Respect starts from a simple point of departure: organizations that optimize for collaboration and honor everyone’s individuality are more successful, joyful places to work.

While written from a US-American perspective, it tackles some of the most salient universal questions of the modern workplace. Scott shows how to combine respect with candor through clear communication, empathy and compassion, constructive feedback, collaboration and teamwork.

Have an inspired weekend!



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