Building a rapport with your audience is one of the most important things you must learn if you wish to give an effective presentation. Ryan Marshall provides a few tips.
I have spent the last two years giving presentations and attending conferences. So I have learnt some easy ways to build the rapport needed. Using these in your future presentations is sure to help you.
1. Get to know the audience
Firstly, arrive early. Spend ten to fifteen minutes introducing yourself to the gathering people. Have a brief talk with them. Who are they? What do they wish to gain by being there today? Or even, what do they do for a living? This is an effective way to put people at ease. You may only speak with 5% of the audience, but they in turn will talk to people there and by word of mouth people almost feel like they know you. This will not only build rapport but help break the ice.
2. Use eye contact
When you begin talking, use eye contact. It is an inbuilt instinct not to trust those who do not look us in the eyes. For example, if you ask a child if it was them who spilt the drink, a guilty child will look away as you ask. If they have nothing to hide they will look you in the eye.
Don’t overdo it, a few seconds is enough. But this will engage the person and again make them feel part of what you are doing.
3. Dress a little more formally than your audience
Dress appropriately. Dress a little more formally than your audience. Doing so establishes your credibility and authority. But do not overdo this.
One thing I have found that helps people relax, is to see you relax. So, for example, after my introduction, which may be a little formal, I take off my tie and undo my top button. Still in shirt and jacket, looking smart but more informal, it gives the impression that the audience is not at school and that they can interact more and become part of your presentation.
4. Tell a story
One thing I always do is to tell a story – one that the audience can relate to and is relevant to the presentation. You can get the audience involved – ask them questions or even use people as props in a skit-type story.
This will again help build rapport and get the audience involved, making them take in what you are telling them without realising it. A very powerful tool if used correctly.
5. Play a game
Finally, and one thing I always do. Before you start your presentation, but after you have welcomed everyone, play a game with the audience. I ask them all to stand, then ask a series of questions related to the presentation. They must be questions with two answers, the funnier the better. Anyone who gets one wrong has to sit down, until you have your winner. This is an instant ice-breaker, gets people smiling, and with well-chosen questions can get the audience’s minds working ready for your presentation.
Remember that a relaxed audience who are enjoying what they are doing are more likely to take in what you are saying than a bored audience! So involve them, put them at ease and do your best to relate to the audience.
And don’t be afraid to have a bit of fun. After all, it’s a presentation, not a court hearing!
13 February 2012