Effective speakers actually build bridges between themselves and their audience. They get to know their audience members so that they can create that very important connection. They learn what interests and motivates their audience, and show themselves as a multi-dimensional, but “regular” being. Doing this allows the speaker to address the specific needs of their audience while at the same time, making the presentation feel more like a conversation with a friend rather than a pitch by a stranger.
The more you can bridge the gap between you and your audience, the more accepting they will be of your ideas, the more likely to stay engaged during your presentation, and the more retentive will be their learning experience.
Take time to greet members of the audience as they enter the room. Introduce yourself and ask them a few questions about themselves. This is the opportunity for you to learn about your audience on both an individual and group basis. Spend the time listening actively, as your turn to speak is coming. Besides, when you truly listen you will actually gain some valuable information about the audience members that will help you to make your presentation more meaningful to them. In addition, this can be helpful to you, as by the time you are speaking to the attendees, most will no longer be complete strangers, as you have made an effort to get to know them.
When speaking, refer to individuals in the audience by name and refer to your recent conversation with them. This makes individuals feel good and an integral part of the session, while at the same time demonstrating to the entire audience that you value each every one of them.
Encourage them to participate in the session and be sure to offer ample opportunities for them to respond, either as individuals or in groups. This creates a more memorable learning experience that unites the audience.
When presenting as part of a program, arrive early, and observe the proceedings. Sit quietly and listen. This demonstrates your interest in the audience, assures that you are there in plenty of time to set up and get ready for your session, and gives you the opportunity to gain insight on other issues they may be dealing with.
Based on your conversations with individuals, as well as what you may have learned from whomever invited you to speak, it is beneficial to share what you know, do, or feel that is common to the group. Explore your shared interests and goals in a way that will resonate with theirs. This approach will certainly engage and connect with your audience.
All of these strategies can help to build bridges while removing the barriers that can exist between a speaker and their audience. Take time to learn about your audience: speak with them and find out what interests and/or concerns they may have. Include them in your presentation in a meaningful manner. Your credibility will be greatly enhanced and your audience will be more receptive to your message if they can relate to you more directly.