You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
As a leader, you know that first impressions matter.
When take to your stage, you have less than a minute – a tiny window of opportunity-to build real rapport with your audience. If you don’t connect, the window slams shut. It doesn’t matter how much of an “authority” you are.
In the audience’s mind, you’re done. You’ve been tuned out.
In a one on one meeting or with a group of three or so people, building this connection is easier. You can be more natural and conversational.
But what do you do when there’s more than five of you in the room? What methods work best to create rapport and build connection with an audience?
Try one of these three techniques:
- Share the impact of how the group’s work has affected you.
One of the main drivers of human motivators is having a clear sense of purpose. People love to know how what they do impacts others.
For this, you need to know your audience. Why are they gathering? What do they do? Why do they do it?
I recently heard the Chairman of a Fortune 50 company speak at a “Women in Leadership” event at his company. He began his talk by sharing how much his life journey was influenced by his grandmother, who raised him. The story was heartfelt and personal, and he instantly created a bond with the crowd.
2. Ask them a question about themselves, get them talking, then listen.
Do you want to be seen as a trusted adviser? Then listen more.
Research points out that people do have a favorite subject to talk about: themselves. Based on your understanding of the audience, craft a compelling question for them to discuss.
Some generic questions include:
- What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
- If you were CEO, what would you change first?
- Who has been your strongest leadership mentor and why?
You can have people pair up and spend a few minutes interacting, then ask for a few replies, which you will (through clever preparation) use to transition into your next point.
Interactivity = Increased Engagement
3. Tell a relevant story that reveals your humanity.
Does it seem that some people you know have a story for all occasions? Their lives are no more interesting than yours. What they do differently is they write down the daily stuff that happens to them.
If you haven’t already done so, start a story file. Turn that daily stuff into story magic. All those things (e.g., the 8 hour flight delay) that were so annoying when they happened? Grist for the story-mill.
When you have an assortment of stories for all occasions, you can pull out and use the story that’s most relevant to the group you’re talking to. Be authentic: be willing to share your struggles, your mistakes, your not-so-good days. Your readiness to be vulnerable makes you real and relate-able.
In the same way that poor presenters hide behind the lectern, don’t hide behind your title and/or authority.
People need to connect to you as a person before they connect to you as a leader.
What other techniques have you used to quickly connect with an audience? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.