Seven top tips for building rapport with your audience

A mixed group of people applaud as a male speaker finishes his presentation

We've all sat through them - 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 your audience more receptive. The real power comes from your emotions - which will go straight to their heart and your audience will remember your story long after your presentation is over.
  2. Use humour to lower the tension. Experiment with what makes your audiences laugh and releases 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 to paint the picture but leave room for them to add their own part. It then becomes "their" story and point of view.
  4. Remember to pause. Use silences at the beginning of your talk, and before an important passage. A pause will allow you to hold the audience in your hand, reuniting them in the tension of waiting. Pause after any important points you make as it lets the audience fully absorb information.
  5. Be in the moment, in the present. Let go of any insecurities or worries about yourself. This might be easier said than done, so how do you do it? Plan your talk, practise and use personal stories and humour relieve any tension or nerves. 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. You passion will come across.
  7. Believe! Give yourself confidence by believing that the audience is your friend. It will give you energy. Believe in what you are talking about and this will come across in 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 it 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 was winner of the Silver Comedy Best Newcomer 2012 at the age of 77.

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