How to Build Trust with Your Audience…

When you are holding a private conversation with someone there are ways of assessing how much someone trusts you but this isn’t so easy when faced with a large audience.

There are subconscious ways of building trust with another person – eye contact, touching their arm, body language that our minds notice without us having to analyse anything at all.

However, when you are standing in front of a large audience of people this isn’t always as easy to achieve. The audience probably isn’t close enough to see your eyes, and it is impossible to hold any one-on-one eye contact with a large number of people. The body language is more difficult to gauge, and is definitely a one-way street; they can see yours but you will not be able to see theirs.

If you are the person giving the presentation, or you are the speaker, then you have to assume that you already have the trust of the audience to start with. They are listening to you because they trust that what you are going to say is honest and they believe you speak with integrity. It is important not to let them down.

Present all facts and figures accurately.

Avoid using phrases belonging to someone else because it hints at an inability to be yourself, and being yourself is extremely important.

When you are standing in front of an audience and they are looking at nothing else, and listening to only you, it is very easy for them to see through you.  They are there, after all, to take in what you are saying and if any one part sounds a bit unbelievable or insincere then they will assume everything else to be the same.

If you do find that you are using clichés or quotations from whatever source, make sure you cite the source of that phrase to avoid anyone thinking you are trying to pass it off as your own.

If you are a member of the audience at a presentation, then never assume you can trust the speaker straight off.  You will notice little things that will prove how genuine they are. Their body will be positioned facing you and they will avoid turning their backs to you as much as possible.  They will address you with open arms, and they will have a steady tonal range.

And, if you have any doubts, check them out afterwards.

Sharren L Bessant

Do you have any tips for helping to build trust?  Leave them in the comments box below.


Published On: 26th Apr 2010

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  1. This information help out a bit to know what do as a speaker. Thanks.

    Michelle 28 Apr at 5:32 am
  2. My comments here are largely relevant to business presentations, but I think apply to the wider practice of public speaking also.

    Building trust is often a simple matter of letting your audience know, without ever seeming deceitful, or arrogant, that what you are giving them is the simplified version of events, but that that doesn’t mean you haven’t got the wider picture in mind throughout.

    This is often a simple matter of just making lists. Devices like saying “Now we know A, B, and C have been an issue for a long time. While advances are being made on A and B, however, I’d like to focus on C, which I think is our biggest opportunity for change”. In this statement, the audience won’t feel as though you’re purposely avoiding A and B, but will just respond to the authority with which you’ve stated that C is what you think is the best option.

    The nature of a presentation is such that there’s only so much detail you can relate – same in other kinds of speeches. But it’s important the audience know that those things which you ignore, have only been so because you’ve got everything under control. And listing – the most direct way of ‘ordering’ things, is a great way to do that.

    Perhaps an easier still way to gain trust is to admit one or two minor mistakes you’ve made. This again creates the impression that you’re not keeping things from your audiences. If, again particularly in business, you later have to be economic at with the truth at some stage in the speech, for the good of your business, the audience will be far more likely to trust you in this.

    Daran 4 May at 12:28 pm
  3. this is really quite good informartion but what about if you are in secondary school and you want to engage your audience what do you do???

    Rhiana 13 May at 1:50 pm
  4. How do i show a bad situation as a good opportunity?

    Anonymous 13 May at 1:52 pm
  5. Rhiana,

    engaging a younger audience is often a bit of a minefield. the mistake a lot of people make is to assume that what makes children concentrate is purely giving them a lot to look at and being very animated. to an extent, this is accurate, but it certainly isn’t enough. the main thing that children appreciate (particularly in secondary school) is honesty, from their speaker. children are guarded from so much in their early lives that by the time they’re secondary students they’re massively keen to get past things.

    the teachers to whom kids respond the least well are those who box themselves off from the students too much – because subconsciously this registers to the children as being ‘part of the problem’, so to speak; that is part of the system that’s oppressing them. let that audience know something about you that perhaps they shouldn’t – nothing big, nothing significant, really; just something that shows you’re human. my own best teacher in school was only really respected so much because the whole class knew that he smoked. obviously, this is a ridiculous reason, but i think it provides a useful example – a teacher who smokes can’t be part of their perceived “oppressive system”. (note: my advice isn’t ‘start smoking’, though – beginning to sound like it). On a smaller scale, just telling them you’ve messed something up, if you do so – letting them know you’ve forgotten a worksheet etc. It genuinely will help in future, because they’ll feel like you’re levelling with them


    Daran 9 Jun at 4:54 pm
  6. Anonymous,

    I actually think my answer to Rhianna applies to this as well. Bad situations are always good opportunities – at least in some respect. When things go wrong the person responsible is shown to have weaknesses. Too many businesses make too much of the idea of strength – sometimes it’s important to show a weakness; particularly ADMITTING one, because it makes you trustworthy. Someone who says they’re responsible for something going wrong, is someone you know won’t lie to you about problems in the future. This is a massively useful thing for your superiors to know, in a company – that they can rely on you for the facts, not the watered down versions of events manufactured to put you in your best light.
    Separately, but equally important, is the fact that a bad situation is an opportunity to return to a good one; to recover. Again, this is a great thing for a superior to see, because it shows there’s a safety net for when difficulties arise (you)


    Daran 10 Jun at 10:58 am