Take advantage of those brief presentation moments to create a real connection with your audience

stopwatch-digitalartSeveral years ago I conducted a workshop on communication skills for a local women’s resource organization. Many of the participants had recently divorced or were in between jobs. One young woman stood out. She had that rough, closed-off bearing of someone who’s seen some tough times. She wore nose rings, ear studs, lots of tattoos and spiked hair, and lots of metal hanging from her belt.

She didn’t interact with the other 15 or so women, and didn’t really participate in the class. At the end of the two-hour course, as I was cleaning up, she walked up to me and said:

“Andrea, where I come from, you can’t trust anyone. If I shared my feelings, I might as well have a sign on me that says beat me down. I just thought that is how my life would be, until tonight. Now I have hope. Thank you.”

This was one of those times I knew something had happened that had little to do with the communication skills I was there to teach. I felt humbled and grateful, and knew I had been part of something much bigger than me.

On my way out, I noticed her at the front desk. I overheard her asking for a mentor and signing up to take more classes. If I thought I was only there to teach communication skills, I was very wrong. My real purpose was to be part of this person’s transformation.

The thing is, we can’t necessarily know the impact we’re having on people when we speak, but we can know that when we speak from our authentic voice — from our mind and heart — we can make a difference. When we are intentional in knowing why we’re there, we can open the door to that transformation, because it only takes a moment to plant a seed.

How do we make our time matter? How do we tell our story to create that relationship?

1. Look for the meaning.

Ask, what do I want for my audience? For them.

This is not, I want them to contribute to my organization. Perhaps it is, I want that woman in the front row to know she matters, or I want that man sitting on my right to know he’s important to me and the organization I represent. I want them to know I really appreciate them.

Because regardless of the seeming purpose for our presence, we are there to serve the people in that room, at that time. 

When we connect to this truth, the audience feels it, individually and personally. They get this isn’t just another speaker who wants to share their story. They get they matter.

2. Use your story’s open to engage, the body to inform, and the close to inspire.

Every part of your story has a reason for being. Your open introduces your core message — the why. The body of your remarks shares the what and how, and the close affirms, encourages and inspires.

To start, ask what you want your audience to walk away with — your core message. Then identify what they need to know to believe you, and end with how important they are to you.

3. Incorporate emotional engagement and creative expression techniques to bring your story to life.

It’s never just about the words. The way we tell our story makes all the difference. Here are a few pointers to keep your audience engaged, entertained and responding:

  • Show and tell. Use your body, your facial expressions, your tone of voice. Bring your experience to life.
  • Share your emotions. Instead of telling me you were happy, share your happiness. Smile. Laugh.
  • Above all, be honest. Be authentic. What does that mean? Speak your truth, from your heart. Drop the “professional” veil and get real.

One way to think about your story is in thirds — open, middle, close. Include only what is essential to that particular audience. What do they need to hear to understand how special they are to you and what you are able to accomplish with their support.

To listen to the entire webinar, click here and scroll down until you find the title, Your Nonprofit Story in 3 Minutes.

I’m privileged to work with individuals and organizations to create their stories, their speeches and their presentations. I’d love to help you! Email me here for more info!


Image courtesy of by digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net   “Stopwatch” by digitalart