Walking out in front of a large group, standing up and speaking to the room, entering your boss’s office, or any variation of these speaking experiences takes courage. It’s you against whomever is listening—or at least that’s how it feels. It takes vulnerability, confidence, and belief in what you have to say.
Speaking to an audience is just like speaking to another individual one-on-one—you want to establish a rapport to feel connected; that connection encourages interest. Whether in an auditorium or boardroom, the moment an audience realizes you care about their success is the moment they begin attentively listening to you and reciprocating that sentiment.
How do you convey this care? Start by being relatable right from the start. Showing your humanity will set the tone for everything that follows. People appreciate it when well-accomplished speakers not only show their flaws, but unveil their personal knowledge, passion, and belief in success, all while genuinely wanting to share this information with others. This takes a unique combination of vulnerability, emotion, and conviction.
Let’s talk about Alec Guettel, the serial entrepreneur who cofounded Axiom. When it comes to dealing with investors, Guettel ascribes to a single golden rule: he never leaves a meeting without divulging—in one way or another—some of his own personal weaknesses. He’s up front about what he doesn’t know or what he has struggled to do well in the past. In fact, he makes it a priority to show people his vulnerabilities, knowing that his honesty builds trust and long-term relationships. His transparency and genuine desire to share makes his message that much more powerful.
Emotion is one of the greatest tools a public speaker can use to captivate his or her audience. In fact, it could be argued that without emotion your message will likely fail. People—both in their personal and professional lives—make decisions that they feel are the right thing to do, rather than simply the logical thing to do. Take, for example, Eric Bernstein, the chief operating officer at eFront, a leading provider of software solutions to the financial industry. While many speakers in his industry might stand behind a lectern and blandly discusses metrics and bar charts, Eric does the opposite. His presentations speak to the audience’s aspirations. He passionately discusses their concerns and helps them to understand the solutions available to not only defend against financial slumps, but increase profitability. Bernstein’s secret? “It’s shocking to me how important emotion is in our business,” he told me. “I want the client to feel that I am not just a software vendor; I’m their partner. The majority of my job is to transform something from whatever it is to what I want it to be. Ninety percent of that is the human element.”
If you are speaking, leading a meeting/presentation/etc., you are presumed to be a person of authority on the topic. Don’t give your audience any reason to doubt their assumption coming into the presentation. Travis Bradberry, a leadership expert and co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 said, “In business, things change so quickly that there’s a great deal of uncertainty about what’s going to happen next month, let alone next year. Leaders with conviction create an environment of certainty for everyone.” Conviction doesn’t necessarily guarantee success; however, a lack of it almost always guarantees failure. Conviction drives decision-making, promises action, tolerates risk and overcomes doubt. Conviction captures an audience. It’s a personal and deep-seated belief that compels companies to move forward despite doubt and cynicism.
Your audience will feel it, whether you care or not. They’ll know if you are passionate about your topic and whether you have a desire to share it with anyone who will listen. The minute you let on that you don’t care, they won’t either. Why should they? To learn more techniques for being an effective communicator, sign up for my newsletter at www.chuckgarcia.com.