How to absolutely connect with your audience

Updated: Nov 1, 2018

Connecting with our audience is one of the most important aspects of public speaking. The main reason we’re delivering a speech is to connect. We want to make the audience think differently or act differently as a result of our words.

If we don’t connect then we’re not getting our message across. Adding to this is the problem of memory retention. Studies have shown that:

  • immediately after a 10 minute speech, audiences only recall about 50% of what was said

  • another 25% is forgotten by the next day

  • and only 10% is remembered a week later

Similar studies have shown the same issues when it comes to all kinds of learning. The Ebbinghuas Curve, named for the German philosopher who developed it, shows how quickly we forget information. This means our public speaking messages have to be:

  • simple

  • repeated

  • emphasised

And the easiest way to do this is to drive home a single main point.

Make your single main point connect

Sure, we always want to get a lot of points across. We want to drive home a lot of ideas. That’s fine, but there’s always a single main point that we want to reinforce more than anything else.

If we had to strip away our speech, one line at a time, one idea at a time until there was only one point remaining, what would that be? It’s that single, main point that we want the audience to remember above all else.

If they’re only going to walk away with 10%, then let your single, main point be that 10%.

There’s a four step method for doing this, but remember the purpose of this: it’s to drive home a single, main point. Only use it for one message within your speech, otherwise the technique loses its effectiveness.

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The four step method

So, how do we drive home this single main point?

Here are the four steps:

Tell people

If this is the one thing you want people to take away from your message, tell them. One way to do this is to say, ‘If you don’t take any notice of anything else I’ve said today, then please take notice of this.’

Alternatively, you could say, ‘This is the one you’ve been waiting for. This is the million dollar tip that might change your life. Listen up.’

Use a different kind of gesture

Use a gesture you haven’t used previously in your presentation. For example, if you were to say to people, ‘I want you to aim for the stars’ then reach up with one or both hands and reach for the sky.

Or you might say, ‘Your life is in your hands’ then grasp your hands together. Make this gesture unique. Also, make it natural. There’s nothing worse than a contrived gesture that makes you look like a stage actor gone wrong.

Move to a completely different section of the stage

Or offstage. Using the stage is fundamental in public speaking. If you’re stuck to a lectern, then there’s not much you can do about using the stage. But if you’re free to roam, do it.

To reinforce your single, main point, go to a part of the stage you haven’t used before. Likely, this will be at the front of stage. The closer to the audience, the better.

Pause and repeat

This is a powerful method by itself. It’s your single, main point. Don’t be afraid to say your phrase – pause – and then say it again. For example, ‘Believing in yourself is your greatest strength. (Pause) Believing in yourself is your greatest strength.’

Combining the methods

Using one of these methods is good: using all four is gold. At the very least, focus on driving home one thing – your single, main point.

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