Underwear Doesn’t Improve a Speech. Connecting with your Audience Does

Underwear Doesn’t Improve a Speech – Connecting with your Audience Does

How many times have you heard someone say, “Just picture the audience in their underwear,”?

While I am not sure who can stake a claim to originally coming up with that concept, I rue the day they first uttered the concept.

Picturing an audience in their underwear doesn’t help improve a speaker’s presentation. It actually gives the nervous speaker one more thing to think about. Besides, I don’t even like to picture myself in my own underwear. In fact I am all for wearing bathrobes to the beach and providing coat racks about a foot from the water.

In high school, a well-meaning teacher advised us to look at the clock in the back of the auditorium so we did not have to look at the audience when giving a speech. That is good advice if you are trying to get the clock to vote for you for student council president.

Connecting with Your Audience

Whether you are speaking impromptu or giving a planned presentation, connecting with your audience is the key ingredient to a successful speech or presentation. Picturing Barry from accounting in his super hero boxer shorts probably will just get in the way.

To connect with your audience, you have to look around the room and connect with members of the audience. You want to look members of the audience directly in the eye and have them feel you are speaking directly to them.

The size of the audience does not matter when it comes to connecting with your audience. Have you ever had the experience of being in a very large audience and feeling as if a speaker is looking directly at you? You get a momentary jolt that you had better pay attention as the speaker is directing their comments to you.

Truth be told, speakers talking to thousands of people only see a swirl of faces from the stage. Add in intense lighting being shined into the speaker’s eyes and you can guarantee that momentary direct connection was just a great speaker at work. The speaker was making a connection.

From the Meeting Room to an Arena

Did you ever catch TV preacher Joyce Meyers while flipping the channels? I am not pushing her message on you, but tune in and watch her someday. Most of her shows are taped in large arenas and she is an expert at connecting. The woman is funny and she connects with her audience.

I bet Ms. Meyers learned her craft in front of much smaller audiences. I have no clue of her history, but I bet less than a dozen people witnessed her first attempt at public speaking.

You don’t have to wait to become a speaker that connects with your audience. You can begin in a small conference room where you work. You can learn by speaking more often and when asked.

Connecting with your audience needs to begin with your next chance to speak. Take the time to look around the room and look people in the eye while you speak. Keep that connection a second longer than feels comfortable. After a while, this connection will become natural.

Don’t look at the screen and watch your PowerPoint as if you are seeing it for the first time. Instead, look directly at the audience as you present what is on the slide. Connect.

A Fully Clothed Audience

Unless you are speaking on the nudist colony circuit, keep your audience dressed. Look at them directly in the eye even if you are speaking on a big, well-lit stage. If you are reading from a written speech, look up once in a while and glance at the audience. Let the audience know you are a person first and a speaker second.

Finally, if you are speaking on the nudist colony circuit, pray that there is a clock hanging in the back of the room.

Resources

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Al, you always reward those that finish the article with a great line at the end.

    Hilarious! I use passion over panic for establishing both audience connection and presence. I completely agree with you that all the tips and tricks that are taught have almost no real effect, except to add affect to an otherwise authentic message. I prepare by first connecting to my message and the privelage of guiding an audience through a transformational experience. There’s a joy that comes from being allowed to say what you are passionate about to others. I find head nods, empathetic smiles and agreeable laughter in the audience and whether I can actually see them of not, I direct my message to those beacons of support.
    Al, thank you for looking us in the eyes as you share your truth and passion.

  • Eric Grapengeter

    Good advice Al. I am just starting out in the speaking realm, as I
    have been a programmer trapped in a cubical for most of the last 20
    years. It’s only the last handful of years that I have begun to do
    presentations for the “C” level folks, and your suggestions are
    appreciated.

    Do I know of whom you speak from high school? Must be one of our English teachers, yes?