Really Connect with Your Audience
January 26, 2023
One secret of effective communication is connecting with your audience.
This is true whether you are dealing one-on-one, with small groups, with large groups, or with invisible groups over radio, television, or the internet.
It is true with speaking and with writing.
I was reading my scripture devotions this morning when something slapped me in the face.
You read the same passage, year after year for decades and one day, something pops out at you that you have never stopped to ponder before.
"...After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray." - Mark 6:46
Did I miss, "... he went up on the mountain to pray?"
No. I have preached that part a great deal.
I never stopped and lingered over "...After saying farewell to them ..."
Is it important?
Mark included it in the text. Did he think it was important or just incidental.
Or was it an acknowledgement of a pattern, lifestyle, habit, or practice of Jesus that differentiated him from other teachers?
Or, does the fact that Jesus followed that practice mean that he valued it?
On one hand, it is a people-skill and a simple courtesy.
On another hand, I I realize most of us only have two, it is something you would do with one person or a small group when taking your leave. But over 5000?
Do you really have a personal relationship with a crowd?
As a public speaker and teacher for many years, i would say, that if you do not, you have not connected. Your effectiveness is limited.
When you dismiss a crowd, you are not say, "the end" and turning off the microphone. You are saying farewell to friends.
You are hoping to meet again.
You are acknowledging a valuable relationship that has been forged in a short time and might continue for years to come.
The people will always be part of you and you will always be part of them.
Having made over 10,000 talks in my life, actually having lost count, I can say, that every person in every audience, has left an imprint on me.
Every time I have left them, I have needed to retreat to a mountain for prayer, refection and regrouping.
Some faces and voices stand out more vividly and colorfully; some are faded. But all have changed me.
My prayer is that whatever imprint I have left of the crowds has prompted a change for the better in their lives.
If it worked for Jesus, I cannot improve on that.
Here are some of the lessons I learned about connecting.
Prepare to connect. Prepare your own mind, heart, attitude, and presentation to make new friends, and to care about the individuals to whom you will be speaking. For me, it has always involved prayer. If that is not part of your life, find another way to turn your heart to the people.
Arrive early and meet people. That may not always be possible with large gatherings, but whenever possible, take advantage of the opportunity to mingle and have some conversations.
Make eye contact with some people in the group. That is difficult if the room is dark and the spotlight is on you, but it always works in smaller crowds. If the room does not allow for it, use your imagination and visualize people who are responding.
Likewise, learn to pick up on signals like breathing, crowd sounds, pacing of applause, and other indicators of whether or not the people are with you. You are not just performing, you are building a relationship. Read the room.
Pause and ask for response. Your pacing can be a relationship builder.
Open your heart to the crowd and be vulnerable. Share from more than what you know. Share from who you are.
Linger, if possible, for some one-on-one conversations and questions. I assume you want to come back to this crowd. Make some friends.
Give yourself 100% in the moment of speaking. Give everything you have. Be present, flexible, and real.
Say "farewell" in some way that lets the people know that you are going away but you will always take the moment with you and carry them in your heart, that you appreciate them, and, if you are as corny as me, that you love them.
You can be eloquent, persuasive, interesting, funny, and entertaining, but if you do not connect, something will be missing.
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