So you’ve prepared a great presentation. You’ve done your research. Built some killer slides. Practiced several times in front of a mirror just like that speaker coach told you. And you’re feeling pretty good as you take the stage. But five minutes into it, and you’re feeling like the audience is, well… just not that into you.
A well-developed speech, given by a great speaker can sometimes fall flat if we forget the basics of human connection.
The great consulting guru, Peter Block, talks about “connection before content.” He urges people, especially groups of people who want to collaborate and solve big problems together, to establish personal connection with each other because, Block says, “without relatedness, no work can occur.”
We can apply this principle of effective civic engagement – connection before content – to our presentations.
Before you get to your content, you need to consider how you can establish personal connection with your audience. Yes, basically I’m saying we need to “warm up” the crowd or “break the ice.” But I think these terms sometimes trivialize the role of connection, and we end up skipping that part to get down to business – especially when time is limited. I find this is especially true of conference calls where people get straight to content without spending any time to engage and connect with the geographically dispersed audience members.
So the next time you get the chance to speak to a group of people, think about a creative way you can build a connection before you get to content. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Tell a personal story that your audience can relate to
- Mention a recent event that most people in the audience would care about
- Highlight a person or two in the audience (e.g. this person is a great example of what I’m about to talk about…)
- Share something about you that conveys that you are just like everyone else in the audience
- Start with something fun like a song or a chant that unifies the crowd
Remember, great presentations (the ones that leave a lasting impact) are typically the ones that engage us emotionally. So as you hone your speaking skills, don’t forget to build connection before content.