Public speaking: how to build rapport with your audience


Date: 20 February 2013

Public speaking: how to build rapport with your audience/microphone{{}}We’ve all sat through them — those presentations where the speaker just doesn’t connect with the audience, leaving you feeling detached from the experience and that your time has been wasted.

Here are my seven top tips to ensure you build great rapport with your audiences — whatever the occasion.

1. Use a personal story or anecdote to connect with your audience. It shows that you are ready to be open, vulnerable and personable, and it will make them more receptive. The real power comes from your emotions — which will go straight to their heart and they will remember your story long after the words have gone.

2. Use humour to lower the tension. Experiment with what makes your audiences laugh and release any tension. Be ready to surprise them. Dare to mock what happened to you — self-deprecating humour is a great way to make you appear more human.

3. Create images and movies in the heads of your audience. Everyone will see something slightly different in their mind's eye, adding their own experience to it and making it theirs. Tell them enough, but leave room for them to add their own part. It then becomes "their" story and point of view.

4. Remember to pause. At the beginning of your talk, and before an important passage. A pause will allow you to hold them in your hand, reuniting them in the tension of waiting. Pause after any important points you make as it lets them fully absorb information.

5. Be in the moment, in the present. Let go of any worries about yourself from the interaction. This might be easy to say, but how to do it? Plan your talk, practise and use personal stories and humour to let go of any tension. Remember to smile — and breathe!

6. Use variety in your voice to enhance your message. For instance, quickening the pace to add tension, emphasising key words to bring out important points (but don’t overdo it!) and lowering your volume to add suspense. The most important things are to connect with your own emotions and to speak about what you care about. It will show.

7. Believe! Give yourself confidence by believing that the audience is your friend, and will give you energy. Believe profoundly in what you are talking about and this will take care of most of your vocal variety and gestures — and ensure that you project authenticity.

Each audience, each room, each time is different. The same speech should be adapted to every occasion, and will be received differently. Join a speaking club such as Toastmasters International to give yourself the opportunity to practise in a supportive environment. Experiment. Enjoy. Engage.

Julie Kertesz is a member of Toastmasters International and winner of the Silver Comedy Best Newcomer 2012.

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