In Business trends, on Fri, 05/04/2013

Posted by Julie Kertesz in Business trends on Fri, 05/04/2013 - 12:30
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Julie Kertesz, a member of Toastmasters International and winner of the Silver Comedy Best Newcomer 2012, advises how to build great rapport with your audience whether it's giving presentations in-house or delivering external speeches.

We've all sat through them; those presentations where the speaker just doesn't connect with the audience. At the end, you leave feeling detached and disconnected from the experience.

To make sure you never give a presentation that does that to your audience, here are some tips to help you build rapport.

1. Prepare a flexible presentation that you can adapt to the audience and the occasion and whatever happens on the way. Don't learn it by rote, or attempt to read it – instead have a series of stepping stone that guide you through your subject. This will allow you the flexibility to jump, stay longer or move on quicker in response to your audience.

2. Start with a bang. Alan Donegan from Enjoy Presenting says: "Every presentation out there starts with a similar opening - 'hello my name is Jeffery Simpson, I am from Boring Ltd and I want to talk to you today about...' This bores the audience and leaves you struggling for attention. Who cares what you want to talk to me about, what am I going to get out of it? So start with a bang and grab people’s attention right up front."

3.Use a personal story or anecdote to connect with your audience. It shows that you are ready to be open, vulnerable and personable, and it will make them more receptive. The real power comes from your emotions – which will go straight to their heart and they will remember your story long after the words have gone.

4.Create images and movies in the heads of your audience. Everyone will see something slightly different in their mind's eye, and they will add their own experience to it, thus making it theirs. Tell them enough, but leave room for them to add their own part. It then becomes "their" story and point of view – and they are more likely to be persuaded.

5.Make Laugh! Jane Penson, a fellow Toastmaster, recommends using: "gentle self-deprecating humour (with the smile of course). If you are an acknowledged expert in something – you can say you are useless at something else in a light hearted way. Anything that makes you human and fallible (for some people, speakers carry an aura of mystery and inaccessibility just by the fact of being ‘up there’ in front of them). For example, phrases like: I just couldn’t get the hang of...; I really don’t do numbers (language expert); How do you do that? (something the audience can do); don’t ask me to find my way back out of here – I get lost in my own bedroom. Or try an anecdote that arises naturally out of the speech, for example; I play in a very low key orchestra – the conductor gets us to play in tune and up to speed but never at the same time."

6.Remember to pause. At the beginning of your talk, come in and do not dive in as soon as you are there. Wait. Make contact. Let them look up and wait. And pause before important passages too. A pause will allow you to hold them in your hand, reuniting them in the tension of waiting. Pause after any important points you make as it lets the audience fully absorb them.

7.Use variety in your voice to enhance your message. For instance, quickening the pace adds tension, emphasising key words brings out important points (but don’t overdo it!) and lowering your volume adds suspense. The most important things are to connect with your own emotions and to speak about what you care about. It will show – the audience will hear it and also see it from your body language.

8.Smile! Barbara Moynihan from On Your Feet recommends smiling. "They say the shortest distance between two people is a smile. Always begin with a smile, unless you are communicating bad news. Smiling will make the audience see that you are relaxed and looking forward to the presentation and will entice them to do so too. Another side effect is that a smile is the cheapest way to improve your looks!"

9.Believe! Give yourself confidence by believing that the audience is your friend, and will give you energy. A well united audience offers energy to you that will give you a boost. Believe profoundly in what you are talking about and this will take care of most of your vocal variety and gestures, and ensure that you project authenticity.

10. Each audience, each room, each time is different. The same speech should be adapted to each occasion, and will be received differently. Join a speaking club such as Toastmasters International to give yourself the opportunity to practice in a supportive environment. "Stage time, stage time, stage time" as 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LaCroix said.

Experiment. Enjoy. Engage.

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