7. They practice making an emotional connection with the audience. Highly effective speakers know that changing the mind requires touching the heart. That’s why they always find a way to incorporate stories, no matter how dry or technical the topic. Rather than putting themselves and their accomplishments on a pedestal, they make themselves approachable so the audience can relate to them, by revealing their flaws and failures as well as their successes.
Yet, I still run across speakers who resist the idea that an emotional connection is essential. To them I say, “Then why are you speaking?” If you simply wrote your message down, the recipients – assuming they’re literate adults – could read it in half the time you will take to deliver it. The answer should be obvious: we speak because people engage with speakers in a completely different way than they engage with words printed on a page. That difference is the emotional connection.
How do highly effective speakers make a strong emotional connection? They start with all six of the previous practices. They pay special attention to their use of stories, seeing to it that they do not always depict themselves in the role of the hero. In each of their stories, they let the audience experience the change that takes place in the central character as the conflict is resolved, thereby making their listeners desire that change for themselves as well.
Having done all that, they still have one tool in their arsenal that most speakers will not use, and this is what separates the best speakers from the rest of the pack. That tool is vulnerability.
Face it, every speaker wants to look good on stage. That desire to look good causes most speakers to shine the light on their successes and triumphs. According to author and researcher Brené Brown, vulnerability is the first thing we look for in others and the last thing most of us want to expose. But it is key to making a powerful speaker-listener connection. As a speaker, you must reveal something of your flaws and failures as well as your successes. To do otherwise is to put those successes out of your listeners’ reach, because they will believe that unlike you, they are not special enough to achieve them.
For an example of what I mean, listen to this brief audio clip:
That was how I opened a recent presentation. I went on to tell about the most humiliating, embarrassing moment of my previous career in broadcast engineering. Of course, I did not leave it there. I went on to tell of a subsequent success, thereby creating intense curiosity about my journey from failure to success. Do you think that audience had an emotional investment in the outcome of my story after that opening? You bet they did!
It’s not enough simply to understand the importance of making an emotional connection. A good speaker must put that understanding into practice by sharing his or her vulnerabilities. Most speakers are unwilling to go there. Are you?
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