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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Connecting with your audience

We’ve all been there. We’ve sat and listened to someone speak and wished they hadn’t bothered.

Yet we meet them afterwards and wonder who the person was on the stage? The person in front of us is animated, interesting, we believe every word, can engage with what they’re saying and want to know more. We even consider inviting them to speak at a conference until we remember the catastrophe on the stage.

I want to explore something that often comes as a surprise to fellow speakers when I give them feedback and that’s how we use our energy.

I don’t mean energy levels that are addressed through appropriate diet, exercise and sleep. I mean the type of energy we can feel when we walk in the room and can tell it’s a place we want to be or not, or the type of energy that we feel when someone is passionate about what they’re saying. What we do with our energy when speaking has an impact on us, our audience and our message in the same way.

The problem is people often provide more logical and rational reasons for their feedback on our keynote and it often ignores what I believe to be one of the major blocks for many speakers. Feedback is getting closer when we hear:
  • It’s not coming from your heart
  • You’re in your head too much
  • You didn’t connect with the audience
  • You didn’t connect with the message
  • It just wasn’t you up there
  • You looked like a headless chicken
  • You were talking AT not TO me
These all arise because of what we’re doing with our energy and our energy is impacted by what’s happening inside us. For example we might be imagining our message is a bullet and the audience feel this as being shot at, or we might have a metaphorical wall around us and the audience experiences this as aloofness or even arrogance. Being aware of the internal representation(s) we have when we’re speaking and ensuring they support our objectives is essential.

Here are a few tips on how to recognise when you might need to take action and some examples of internal representations you might consider

Grounding


  • You know you’ve lost it when: You feel tense and are pacing up and down and can’t stop moving.
  • Others know you’ve lost it when: They start to feel agitated and distracted.
  • You know you’ve got it when: You feel as if you have all the time in the world.
  • Others know you’ve got it when: They are calm and feel the power of your words.
  • Internal representation/metaphor to consider: Anything that grounds you – often from the feet e.g. roots, heavy boots, anchor etc.
Connection


  • You know you’ve lost it when: You feel isolated from the audience and may even start to panic.
  • Others know you’ve lost it when: They start talking to each other and are not paying attention to you.
  • You know you’ve got it when: You feel like you’re talking to your friends.
  • Others know you’ve got it when: They feel included in a discussion with you.
  • Internal representation/metaphor to consider: Anything that provides a connection with the audience - often from the heart e.g. tracks, golden chains etc.
Communication


  • You know you’ve lost it when: You can’t remember what you are going to say next.
  • Others know you’ve lost it when: They feel confused and don’t understand what you’re saying.
  • You know you’ve got it when: You find the right words easily and effortlessly.
  • Others know you’ve got it when: They can’t wait to hear what you have to say next.
  • Internal representation/metaphor to consider: Anything that offers and delivers the message – often from the head e.g. light, flowing water etc
You may notice in the examples given that the picture for communication is also very grounding or the grounding picture relates to connection. Often once we find and embody the right metaphor grounding, connection AND communication can take place.

What’s your metaphor and does it work for or against your success?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Pictures copyright my brother :-) Andrew Jones Photography

PS: Do please get in touch if you'd like a coaching session providing energetic feedback on your leadership or speaking. It's likely to explore aspects you've not covered before and could be what's holding you back from truly connecting with others alison@alisonsmith.eu +44 (0)7770 538159

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