There is nothing worse than sitting through a presentation that sounds like it is being given by Ben Stein. Ugh. The thought of that makes me want to go to sleep right now. It doesn’t matter what the content is, no one will actively stay listening if the presentation is being delivered in that way.
I bet some of you can think about a recent meeting or presentation that put you to sleep. Hopefully, you were not the person who was leading it!
Trust me, you do not want to be one of those people who ineffectively communicates because it is a waste of everyone’s time. This may be painful for you to hear but it is the truth. If I don’t tell you exactly how it is, what good am I to all of you? I would literally be worthless…
Communication is one of those skills that has the ability to take a leader or influencer, from good to great. It is truly an artform to witness someone grab an audience by the collar and keep them engaged until all the key points are made. When someone listens to everything that you are saying, it is their choice. They are choosing to lock on to what you are saying over checking their comments and likes on social media, and sadly that is a really big deal!
This all sounds great, but what does the art of commanding an audience look like in a simply digestible format?
1. Know what the hell you are talking about. Please.
If you do not really know what you are talking about, you will have no confidence in yourself and everyone will know it. There is no reason to set yourself up for failure here. Do your research, get some experience, or invest some time talking with experts who can educate you on your subject matter. There is nothing more irritating than someone who is talking to you from a position of expertise or authority who has no actual experience with what they are talking about. I realize that sometimes you get blindly thrust into these situations and in that case, just give it your best effort. When you have a planned opportunity to engage an audience, give them the best you have to offer because they really do deserve that.
2. Tell stories.
One of the best ways to grab someone’s attention is to share a first or third person story about an experience or a situation. We naturally connect with speakers who have had experiences similar to our own because we travel back to that place and time in our minds without even realizing it. This creates a quick and personal connection and it puts you on the level of your audience and not above them. Certain personality types, like mine, simply ignore what people are saying when they are talked down to or belittled. This is a horrible approach to utilize with anyone that you want to respect you. Storytelling captivated us as children and will continue to do so all the way to our last precious days on earth. Finally, this ‘humanizes’ the speaker and reminds everyone else that they are not any different than they are.
3. Speak with passion.
Nothing gets my attention more quickly than someone who is passionate about the subject that they are speaking about. Passion also allows words to be transferred into feelings that can stir up the full range of emotions. This creates a powerful and lasting experience for the members of the audience. Have you ever heard the saying that “most people will forget what you say, but not how you made them feel”? This is where that experience is created. If you struggle to put energy and passion into your voice, I can also assume that you don’t fully engage your audience like you would really want to.
Am I right here?
If you are speaking, coaching, or consulting about things that bore you, just imagine how your clients feel when they stare at your name on their calendar. Yikes!
4. Make eye contact.
To let people know that you are genuine and serious about what you are saying, it is necessary to look at them. The eyes allow you to gather a lot of information about the person that is talking to you and vice versa, in a very short amount of time. Use this fact to your advantage, and make sure that you engage as many people as you can in this way. I promise that it will make a lasting impression because it adds another dimension of the personal touch. Again, this will help to make it memorable and impactful for the folks that you are talking to. Eye contact also breeds trust and this is the building block that everything you say rests upon.
5. Do yourself, what you are telling others to do.
Do not use the “do as I say not as I do” approach with other adults! This may work with your kids when they are really little, but this is a respect-killing move in the business world. When I was in the HR field, I learned very quickly that I needed to embrace the changes before expecting other employees to buy into them as well. We are intuitive about the authenticity of others, so this is another mandatory step you must take if you want to really own the opportunity that you have in front of your audience. If you convey this step correctly, nothing will get others who look up to you to ‘buy in’ more quickly than this.
If you can improve in any of these areas that I mentioned, your results in front of an audience will improve. If you can master all five of these areas, I believe that you are on your way to gracefully command the attention of an audience. It is important to note that this would be from a position of awe and expertise and not based on your position or title.
Does anyone come to your mind as being a master of commanding an audience? What was it about them that makes you feel this way? Reflect on that question and write a few of the traits or habits that they had in the comments!