9 Tips For Quickly Building Rapport With Your Audience by Peter Dhu

One of the keys to a successful presentation is to ensure that you are in rapport with you audience. Rapport is the trust and connection that a speaker creates with his/her audience. If you are asking people to adopt a new way of thinking, an alternate viewpoint or to change their behaviour then it is crucial to develop trust, connection and rapport. Here are 9 different strategies that can help you quickly develop rapport with your audience.

1. Have accommodating body language
This means body language that will help to build rapport and trust. Have a smile when greeting people and a nice handshake that matches and mirrors that of the other person. When you are on stage have palms facing up as you talk to them and have your head bobbing. Take a risk and get out from behind the lectern or the table. Don’t have any barriers between you and the audience. Your body language should demonstrate warmth and that you want to be there speaking to them. Of course, once you are in rapport, you can change to credible body language.

2. Use a lower rate of speech and use pauses rather than ums and ahs
By slowing down your rate of speech and modelling silence and pause, you are showing your audience that you are relaxed and comfortable (even if you are a little nervous). This helps put your audience at ease and they will relax and feel at ease and more readily connect with you. Reducing your “ums” and “ahs” and replacing them with pause also helps demonstrate your confidence and build connection and rapport.

3. Talk about the audience and what you hope to give them
This requires that you take the focus of your presentation off yourself and make the presentation visibly and emotionally about the audience. Make the presentation for the audience and about their needs. Talk about their issues, their problems and what your hope is for them as a result of the information you are going to share with them. Demonstrate that you are there for them. If the audience can see that you are there solely for their benefit, you will build rapport and trust.

4. Listen to the audience
At the beginning of your presentation ask the audience what they want from you. What are their major concerns and needs? Then address them. By asking questions and then showing genuine interest in their questions you will build rapport. I spoke to a group of University students this week. I started by introducing myself and saying that I planned to cover these 3 points. I then asked, “if you could ask me anything what would that be”. I then captured the 10 most pressing questions people had on a white board, and then delivered my content, making sure that I answered all of the 10 questions during my talk. There were some awkward questions, but this act of asking “what do you need from me” immediately built rapport and connection with my audience.

5. Reveal some vulnerability
Sometimes you need to give a little trust in order to receive some trust back. Brene Brown in her TED talk explains the power of vulnerability. You can reveal that 2 years ago you were struggling, or 12 months ago you were facing the same dilemma that many people in the room are facing now. As a public speaking trainer, when I reveal that I stutter and feared public speaking, but still do public speaking, that helps put people at ease, trust me and builds rapport.

6. Give more than expected
We have all heard the saying “under promise and over deliver”. I am not sure about the under promise, but I like to over deliver. Give a gift or some bonus information at the end of the presentation. Give an add-on, over and above your normal presentation such as free checklist, E-Book or half hour coaching session. I went to a seminar where everyone in the room received a free Dyson vacuum cleaner worth $800. The excitement and the mood of the room changed in an instance. And we all listened intently to what the speaker said.

7. Manage your audience’s expectations
One of the biggest rapport breakers and reasons for a presentation falling short is when the audience is expecting one thing, but the speaker delivers something completely different. This can be under delivering or delivering off topic. We can manage our audience’s expectations by ensuring our marketing material matches what we deliver. We can also outline upfront what we are here to talk about and what we cannot cover or talk about. This way you have framed your content upfront and you can manage audience expectations accordingly. We may choose to open up and say that nothing is off limits and I will answer any questions around this topic. It is the managing and meeting your audience’s expectations that matter.

8. Give the audience a cultural compliment
An audience loves a speaker who has taken the time to learn about their audience and the people who are in the room. Are you going to acknowledge the traditional landowners? Can you comment on a local issue that you have just read in the newspaper? Do you know what to do if someone exchanges a business card with you holding it with both hands (Chinese and Asian audiences)? Do you need to use specific language for that group (Mining versus Health Professionals)? I was recently speaking to a group of white people in Bendigo and I acknowledged the traditional land owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung people. At morning tea a young man came up to me and thanked me and told me his mother was a Dja Dja Wurrung women and how few people know the traditional land owners and least of all, acknowledge them. We were in rapport.

9. Manage your audience’s energy level
As you audience tires and fatigues and when a speaker goes on for too long, rapport can be lost. So as a speaker you need to manage this energy level. Take breaks, get people to stand up and speak to the person next to them. Get people to find someone they haven’t spoken to yet and move to a new seat. Get audience participation through questions and sharing and discussions. If you wish to stay in rapport, then manage the energy level of the room and a change of pace and differing activities may be required.

Take the time and effort to get into rapport with your audience. It will make a big difference in the success of your presentation.

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