We've already discussed options for audience connection like eye contact and movement. To help find new inspiration for Stephanie this week, I went to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Memorial in Washington, DC, on a picture-perfect day, for three reasons: FDR was a master speaker whose words guided the nation through its most challenging times; his wife, Eleanor, was an inspiring woman speaker who doubted her own abilities, yet inspired the world; and finally, the memorial itself gives me inspiration on how to get audiences engaged. Here's what we can learn from the memorial about audience connections:
- Make a connection with content: Where do you fit in the program? If you're the only speaker, your context is the organization and what the audience is there to hear. But if you're one of many speakers--at a conference or on a panel--you can help your audience connect your remarks to those of other speakers, drawing together disparate threads into a sense-of-the-meeting. That's true whether you agree or disagree with other speakers, by the way.
- Make a connection with hands-on participation: Let the audience experience your talk using all their senses. Can they talk? Ask questions? Come forward as a volunteer? Share what they know? Do an exercise at their seats? Create something and learn from you in the time you are speaking? All of those are ways to make your audience feel they are participating and contributing to your speech.
- Listen to your audience to connect: Just as Eleanor Roosevelt did, listen to your audience. Take the time to ask them what they think or want to ask; make sure you don't use all the available time with your remarks, to be sure they have time for discussion and questions; and spend some time before you ever approach the microphone talking to people who may be in the audience about what they want to hear.
- Let your audience see themselves in your talk: Can your audience relate to what you're saying? One of the best ways to connect is to show them to themselves: Use pictures or video of the crowd (best if they're taken while the audience isn't aware); project their questions or their Twitter feed on a screen; or let them tell you examples and issues that illustrate your talk. When the audience can see itself reflected in your remarks, visuals and volunteers, you stand a better chance of making a firm connection.
Related posts: Inspiration for women speakers from Eleanor Roosevelt's story
Engage your audience with social media
What to do when you're losing the audience
How to listen to audience questions
Graceful ways with Q&A