How to engage your audience
Posted by Kim at September 18th, 2012
You know the feeling. You are just about to break into your most important point, and it suddenly dawns on you - nobody is listening. The guy is row six is actually nodding off. Somewhere between point 1 and 6, you lost the audience...again.
It is the goal of every speaker to make a real difference in the lives of people. You can touch the lives of the people you speak to and infuse them with new perspective and new energy. Here are three things that will help.
Congruence - Albert Mehrabian is the Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA. His study shows us that communication is made up of 7% words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language. If you want your audience to really connect with what you are saying, you need to have congruence in all three areas.
Tone of voice is not only your pitch, but the speed that you talk and the emphasis you place on certain words. Even pauses can alter your tone of voice. Body language makes up the largest part of public speaking. It is also the part that is the hardest to control. When the adrenaline flows, it is easy to respond to the feelings - anxiety, overwhelm, nervous energy; all of these can cause you to act in ways that are not congruent with your message.
Be Interesting - Jim Rubart likes to talk about shocking the Broca. When you surprise people in a good way, you engage them. According to Jim, the broca is the part of the brain that lets information into your prefrontal cortex where you can sort the information and decide what to do with it.
The broca is your tuner - it tunes out things that are boring, and tunes into things that are intriguing. Does this mean that you need to run a circus every Sunday? No, but it does mean that you need to be engaging. Tell stories and help people connect to real-life situations. One of the best ways to shock the broca is to use real-life examples in a new context.
Pacing - Some people will tell you that the human attention span has been drastically decreased by television. The average 1/2 hour show only has 22 minutes of "show". I would argue that marketers just created a product that worked with the natural rhythms of people. We really only pay attention for short periods of time before we disengage to file the new information.
Don't expect your people to listen ad nauseum to your great revelations. Instead, give them a paragraph of information, then show them how to apply it. Break up the monotony with an occasional random fact moment. World-class speakers are able to use this pacing to reach people at key points of the presentation and help them receive and apply new information.
Once, years ago, I dissected a popular authors' work. You see, in every book, she had me crying at pages 25, 125 and 160. Every. Single. Book. One day, I decided to figure out how she was able to trigger such deep emotion. The key was her pacing. For great stretches of prose, she would clip along, describing the action much like a newspaper story. Right before she pulled out the tears, she slowed down the pace and started describing little details - she brought you into the moment.
Wouldn't you love to have the skill to bring people to the point of engagement every time you talk? You can.
The people you talk to don't show up just to be nice. They want to hear what God has given you to say. They want their lives to be changed. They want to connect with God.
Communication skills aren't developed overnight, and they aren't usually developed on accident. Some of the world's best communicators started out as pretty lousy speakers.
You can be that engaging, world-class speaker. Pick one of these three areas and work on it. Make a tape of yourself speaking - look for congruence in your words/voice/actions; listen to your pacing - silence is a powerful tool. Next, watch world class speakers and look for where they shock the broca; listen to their pacing and even look for a pattern in their pacing.
Communication is one of the great tools of life. Becoming a world-class communicator isn't impossible - it just takes practice.