Why do we need to build rapport with our audience? An old marketing quote states that “people buy from those they know, like, and trust”. From a public speaking perspective, I like to say, “people listen and learn from those they know, like, and trust”.
Building rapport helps you to connect with your audience and it helps to build trust. Trust and rapport will increase the chances that your audience will listen and consider your ideas and messages. In reality, public speaking is marketing your idea and rapport, and trust will help you sell your message.
While some speakers can naturally engage and build rapport with their audience, most public speakers need to prepare in advance and work on building rapport with their audience.
Here are 5 strategies that you can use to help you build rapport with your audience:
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
We have all heard the saying “take a walk in your audience’s shoes” or “walk a mile in my shoes”. This refers to the fact that before we speak to our audience, we should know them well. You should do your research and ask yourself:
- Who spoke to them last time?
- What was the feedback from the previous speaker?
- What are the issues and problems that this audience is facing?
- What do they want to achieve in their life, career, or business?
- What do they want from me as the speaker or trainer?
- What challenges are facing their industry
To aid this process, I often send out a pre-workshop questionnaire so that I can find out their needs and issues. These simple questions, help me to better know my audience and their needs. This helps me to craft my message and content to meet their needs and expectations. Which helps you to connect and build rapport with your audience and create a positive learning environment.
- BE CULTURALY AWARE
Cultural awareness is being aware of local cultural issues for the group that you are talking to. This may relate to the industry type (accounting, health engineering, mining for example) and being able to speak about issues that relate to that industry helps you build rapport. It could be around a community affected by hardship, drought, or high youth unemployment. Being aware of these issues and being sensitive to them will help you build rapport.
It could be around culture or nationality. When training and speaking around Australia, wherever I go, I like to find out the name of the traditional Aboriginal people and acknowledge their names as the traditional landowners.
Don’t assume your audience is the same as you. They may have cultural or geographic biases and the more you know about them, the better you’ll be able to communicate with them and avoid making cultural mistakes. And if you are presenting in a foreign country, it is important to understand the cultural nuances and differences related to that country.
- UNDERSTAND AUDIENCE EXPECTATIONS
One of the biggest destroyers of rapport is when the audience anticipates and is expecting one thing and the speaker misses the mark and the speaker delivers something else. In other words, the speaker’s content does not meet the audience expectations. To build rapport, ensure your content and message are what the audience is expecting and ensure that it has a benefit for the audience.
- VALUES AND BELIEFS
We all have different values and beliefs by which we live. Every speaker must acknowledge this and make sure, where possible that you don’t trample on or denigrate an audience or organisations values and beliefs. And you can usually find this information out by looking at organizational profiles and mission and vision statements and as I do, conduct a pre-workshop survey. This will help you not offend your audience. You may need to challenge values and beliefs and pose new ideas, but doing that in a respectful way, showing that you understand, know, and respect their values, will help you with building rapport.
- USE THEIR WORDS, THEIR LANGUAGE, THEIR JARGON
It is important to use the right language and the right jargon when speaking to a group of people, as this will help you build rapport and trust. It also helps demonstrate credibility and shows that you have taken time to research, understand, and learn some of their languages.
I speak to a variety of audiences across different industries. This includes the mining sector, banking sector, health sector and disability sector to name a few. Each of those audiences needs a different language and different stories. It’s about picking the right story for that audience and using the right language.
Audiences go to presentations to learn new information, to solve problems, to find solutions and to understand the way forward. They generally don’t go just to be entertained (standup comedy excluded here). Your ability to build rapport and connect with your audience will help you in getting your message across and addressing your audiences’ needs. So, what can you do to ensure you connect and build rapport with your next audience?
I am running an Online Presentation Skills Workshop if you would like to know more on how to connect, build rapport and influence your audience.