The yawn and the cell phone check.
They are the two things you don’t want to see as you look into the faces of the group you are supposed to be engaging. (There’s probably a longer list, but let’s just stop there!) In searching for ways to make sure your audience doesn’t float away you should know one of the quickest ways to their hearts is to talk about things that matter to them. Planning an audience-focused strategy should include a list of comfortable ways to keep them keyed on your message without seeming too solicitous.
The more specific the audience, the easier the connection: Is this a group all together in support of the same cause, project or product? Great! You have a much easier chance of hitting the touch points that mean something to everyone in the room. But, also you have to be careful here. Don’t appear to be too much of a cheerleader – especially if you are an outsider. We’ve all sat in the audience and thought, “This guy is just pushing our buttons – he uses this same trick with every audience.” Make your “local appeal” genuine so your audience knows you’re not just playing to their emotions.
What are their ‘buzz words?’: When you are speaking their language – including using the words and phrases that mean something to them – you are very likely to be connecting with them. This effort does two things: It shows them you have done your homework. And it is much more likely they will understand your message because you are framing it using the words they might use to make the same point.
When in doubt, don’t forget we’re all human: Struggling to find the connection with an audience? Are they from this planet? Then go to the things you know. We all want to love and be loved – we’ve all been embarrassed – we all have felt loss – we all enjoy a good laugh. There are things that connect us, even in a group of strangers. Embrace the things we share and you will find a way to reach even the most diverse group.
What about when talking to a news reporter? Many of the same rules apply. We often think of a news interview as somehow different, but the person asking the questions would appreciate knowing you know something about them. Have you read or seen their past work? Tell them. What if you start the interview by asking THEM some questions? How often do they cover this topic? How long have they been with the news organization? How can you help them as you answer their questions? Very few people ever approach an interview like a conversation – and that little suggestion can make a world of difference.
We all want to feel a connection. Don’t forget that as you prepare your next message. No matter how important your topic, if it is delivered with the audience in mind you are much more likely to hit your mark.
Please follow along through the month @CaryPfeffer
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.