Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
When all is said and done, communication – whether it’s spoken, written or smoke signals, has one aim, and that’s to get something through to an audience. The most important thing any communicator can do is to connect. We must be giving, and sensitive to the needs, interests, knowledge, mood and expectations of our audience. Tuning in to them is our number one priority. You need to build rapport. They have to want to listen to you.
A brilliant example of great audience engagement appeared today on Ben Decker’s Communications blog. Decker applauds the current Air New Zealand safety announcement. It’s a Tolkein takeoff, in which halflings, horses and other friends from Middle Earth tell passengers how to do up their seat belts, and it’s very funny. Of course we laugh. Once we’re emotionally engaged, we’re relaxed and receptive, and whammo – the seat belt message is a million times more memorable.
Entertaining presentations like this one work because they generate audience appeal. Air New Zealand knows that people pay attention for their reasons. They’ve found a way to get us on side. They offer the audience a special experience, something that makes everyone feel connected, warm, and amused.
Air New Zealand has a tradition of whimsical safety videos that riff on popular culture. Remember the ‘naked granny’? Two years ago they showed this on the trans-Tasman rush to the Australia v New Zealand Rugby World Cup final. Even if you don’t know rugby, or care which side won (NZ), or recognize the players the coaches, or the streaker, you see how it set the mood to ‘good times’ and had everyone feeling upbeat well before kickoff. People talked about it for weeks. They also did up their seat belts, and probably flew Air New Zealand again. In other words, appealing to the audience by being witty, clever, customer-aware, and fun to fly with, meant Air New Zealand got us to do exactly what they wanted.
A great study in audience connection !
If you don’t happen to be a marketing genius you can still adopt the principles that make these announcements successful. The first step is to analyse your listeners. Who are they, why’re they here? What’s on their mind? what do they know, think, feel, and expect…? This helps you start to see what your possible points of contact will be.
This post on Six Minutes blog: Audience Analysis: A Guide for Speakers, is one of the best tools I’ve seen. It’s detailed, and comprehensive, and all speakers should have it in their kit.
Once you’ve got an understanding of where they’re at, you must decide how you want to come across, what you want to look like from their point of view. You need to present in a way that appeals to them. What character or personality will you project? Authoritative? Kindly? Concerned? Worried? Entertaining? Encouraging? There are a host of possibilities, but whatever it is, be sure it’s authentic. People have great bullsh*t detectors, so you must be natural and sincere. After that, be confident! Put yourself out there, actively engage and if you’ve prepared for them well, you will get your message through just as you want.