Are you Connecting with Your Audience?

What are the best methods for connecting with your audience?

Being real with your audience, being flawed, being human and showing up authentic is really the only way to connect with them. If you try to be someone that you’re not, it may not work. Audiences can sense inauthenticity no matter what your words say.

What you want to present is the best version of yourself. Powerful, yet humble; smart, yet approachable. If you try to put yourself up on a pedestal, people will not relate to you.

[Tweet “SPEAKERS: If you try to put yourself up on a pedestal, people will not relate to you.@janeatkinson “]

When I worked with publishing magnate, Peter Legge, in Vancouver, we were sometimes flying around in private jets and helicopters. He was a man of influence who was held in high esteem in the community and the country, but I would encourage him to tell the stories about when he was just starting his magazine empire and would clean the toilets himself. That story shows people that he didn’t land at the top of the mountain; that he climbed up there one step at a time. Sometimes speakers tend to gloss over the hardship, which is often the most relatable part of the story for the audience.

Remember, what we do for a living is just our job, it doesn’t need to be our identity. You might be on stage receiving a 10,000-person standing ovation and within 24 hours be back home changing dirty diapers. Kids certainly provide a sense of balance! Use them, or your family, or your parents, to stay grounded and be authentic when you show up on stage!

Lastly, when you’re walking the walk of the wealthy speaker with the epic keynote, don’t forget to be you. (For more tips on connecting with your audience, check out The Epic Keynote)

What are some of the best ways to convey authenticity with your audiences? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Maureen

    I often use Self-Effacing humor early in my talks. My experience is it show folks I can laugh at myself. It sets a nice tone and also sets the audience at ease. As someone who has overcome some significant adversity I know I need to share the hard times, (and what I did) as well as the victories. Thanks for your wisdom, advice, reminders and strategies!

    • speakerlauncher

      I think in my last post I incorrectly called that self deprecating humor Maureen. Self-Effacing, I think, is utterly charming and totally draws me in. Well done!

  • Lea Brovedani

    Completely agree Jane. I heard a speaker who shared such a personal story that it made many (including me) in the audience really uncomfortable. It bordered on therapy. What do you have to say? When is it too much?

    • speakerlauncher

      Such a good point Lea. In my opinion, it’s too much when the audience is uncomfortable. Sometimes there is a purpose to taking the audience out of their comfort zone in order to teach a point, but this sounds more like a situation of TMI! I guess we have to find the line between sharing our pain in order to engage vs. sharing something better kept in the therapists chair. Many people do the opposite, which is gloss over the rough patches. It’s all about finding the balance.

  • Joe Calloway

    Jane, I think that connecting with the audience is vitally important. If I don’t, then I might as well just send them a written report rather than be on a stage in front of them. I speak on business performance, and my content is largely based on the stories of successful companies. If I do tell a story that involves me, I’m never the hero. And if there’s a joke on somebody – it’s on me. I know motivational speakers whose entire presentation is based on their own personal story, and they are absolutely terrific. For me, the question is are you delivering what you promised? If you promised a very personal story that some might find uncomfortable – then deliver it. If, however, a story is like a “sneak attack” and catches the audience by surprise unpleasantly, then you might want to reconsider it. In the end, the market decides. If you are booked solid – then whatever you are doing obviously works and don’t let any speaker tell you otherwise. If, however, you are struggling to get bookings, don’t look for better marketing. Look for better material. It’s the speeches we give that are either winning or losing future business for us.

    • speakerlauncher

      So true. The market is the bottom line, if your style is working then no one can say “you’re doing it wrong”. We sure know that there is more than one “right” way! It certainly appears that your way is working Joe – what is it a 26 city tour coming up this fall? Rock on sir.

      • Joe Calloway

        It’s been a busy year so far, Jane. And yep – the 26 city tour starts in September!

        • speakerlauncher

          Woo hoo!

  • Connection is so important. I always ask the question “when is too much…too much?”. Boundaries do exist. Speaking is like writing – the stories are more therapeutic in nature when the speaker/writer hasn’t fully healed. There is no distance yet from the experience and the ability to look
    down and say “What did I learn that others might find helpful, too?” and “What is the larger theme for this story that people will relate to?” People don’t want to go through therapy with you. They do want to know you understand their pain and can offer solutions.

    That said, I tell personal stories to create connection and credibility and let the audience know I’ve been there. Then I share lessons and strategies. If it feels uncomfortable to me when I practice, then I either change the story or delete it. My gut usually knows. I also include stories of people I’ve worked with so it’s not all about me. Provides a nice mix and learning experience for the audience. Clients tell me my approach is easy to understand and relate to and that generates business for me.

    • speakerlauncher

      That does sound like a terrific mix Stacey, well said!