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An attentive audience listens to a speaker, highlighting the importance of learning how to connect with your audience during a presentation.

How to Connect With Your Audience in a Powerful Way

San Diego’s top public speaking expert, Cobey Mandarino, explores The Power of Connection in business, team, and small group communication.

How important is connection to you when communicating with other people? When you go into your doctor’s office to tell them you’ve been dealing with a mysterious health issue, how connected would you like them to be as they give you their prognosis? How about when you’re chatting with your financial advisor about an important investment decision? Do you want them to be completely present and engaged with you, or would you rather they just give you their advice by rote?

We often take for granted the importance of connection when we’re pitching to investors, presenting at a public speaking engagement, or simply in a company meeting. If we’re good at what we do, we’ll rely on our intelligence and how much we’ve prepared. But far too often when we pass our knowledge and know-how on to others, we miss one of the most important parts of business or team communication. That being connection.

In preparing for, let’s say, a pitch deck, you may have conducted heaps of research and put together a splashy PowerPoint that would make your mom proud. However, if you’re not genuinely connecting, you’re going to lose a lot of listeners in the process. No one says you have to win over every single person in the room. In fact, depending on the size of the crowd, there’s a fair chance you might not. There’s nearly always going to be someone who is “out to lunch”, and there is only so much you can do for the person who’s been ready to leave the room ever since they entered. However, if there’s at least one individual in your audience who is ready to connect, it’s to your advantage to provide that synapse for them. They came to learn, they’re emotionally present, they want to connect. Therefore you must be ready to coalesce too.

WHY IS CONNECTION IMPORTANT?

Connection is more than just speaking the words and having others hear and understand them. It goes to a deeper level. When you connect, you inspire people. You motivate them to buy-in to what you’re pitching. It’s the difference between being acknowledged for doing a “good job” and getting top-notch investors excited to be a part of your project.

So how do you connect? Oftentimes it’s as simple as merely setting that intention before you begin. It’s something we often take for granted, but we set intentions in just about everything we do. Think of this analogy: how does the milk that you buy get into your refrigerator? You go to the grocery store, take the milk off the shelf, pay for it, and then drive it home. But what made you go to the store in the first place? You set the intention. You said to yourself, “I need milk”, and so you went and did it. And though you may not be consciously aware of it, you kept that intention throughout your task. It’s why you picked up the milk instead of, say, detouring to grab a burger at In-N-Out.

Dairy acquisition is easy though. Typically, you don’t have to keep reminding yourself to pick up the 2% while you’re on your trip to the grocery store. However, when you’re presenting a business idea to colleagues or potential clients, it may be a little more challenging. There are countless stress factors involved that may distract you from remembering to stay connected. Did I do enough research? Are people listening? Do I have something on my face? Therefore, you have to consistently remind yourself to stay in the moment and connect.

PRACTICE CONNECTING WITH AN AUDIENCE

It takes practice. Think about the milk analogy. Staying on task comes easily because you’ve done it so many times. However, connecting may be something that isn’t in your usual repertoire. Therefore, you need to practice it every day. Train yourself with as many people you come in contact with throughout the week. Practice it with your kids. Children have an amazing ability to live in the present moment. Though it may be fleeting, they’re constantly connecting because they don’t have a lot of life history to bog them down, while also not having many responsibilities that keep their mind stuck in the future. Practice with them and notice how well you can connect with them moment to moment.

No children? Rehearse with your therapist. I’m of the belief that a therapist is not hired simply to listen to your problems. Hopefully you’ve retained their services to also allow you to tune-up on being your best self. Get the most out of that $200 per hour session. Utilize them to practice connection. And if you absolutely do need to dish your dirt to them, do it with the intention of connecting with them simultaneously.

No children, no therapist? No problem. Try it out with your friends, or even the grocery store clerk. You don’t even have to tell them it’s happening. Just be present and make an effort to connect. If you practice connecting on a daily basis, it’ll be that much easier when you’re presenting in front of a thousand intimidating faces. Would Michael Jordan have been as dominating if he didn’t shoot 500 jump shots a day in practice? Not likely.

Need more reason to connect? It’s been scientifically proven that connecting with others lowers your tendency towards depression while simultaneously heightening your self-esteem. The sense of human connection is primal and is a fundamental human need. There’s a reason we have traveled in tribes since the dawn of humankind. So, set your intention, put yourself out there, and connect.

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