When it comes to delivering a knockout presentation, some presenters seem to effortlessly build audience rapport – they seem to just have ‘it’. They have a certain energy about them – a presence that commands the room and draws the audience in deeper with every word.
You know it when you see and hear it. It’s unmistakable. But what exactly do we mean by ‘it’? Is it charisma? Style? Timing? Body language?
It all boils down to having a good Executive Presence, and a major part of developing your executive presence is understanding how to build a great rapport with your audience.
The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned, so read on for tips on building rapport with any audience and delivering an unforgettable presentation every time.
What do we mean by ‘audience rapport’?
At its core, rapport is all about human connection, mutual understanding and trust.
In the context of delivering a presentation, building rapport means that you understand and value the needs of your audience and respond to those needs accordingly. It is an almost unspoken connection between you and your audience – one built on a mutual understanding of their needs.
Strategies for building audience rapport during a presentation
To build rapport with your audience, you need to keep them at the centre of your content. Seek to understand their goals first, and then align them with yours.
Why is it important for them to hear what you have to say? Knowing this is the key to delivering a presentation that will resonate with them on an emotional level.
Here are ten of the most effective tips for helping you build rapport, and craft and deliver a knockout presentation:
1. Know your audience
The primary goal of any presentation is to engage the audience, and this is virtually impossible if you don’t know anything about them.
Take the time to learn everything you can about your audience so that you can speak to their desires and empathise with their pain points. This way you will be able to not only meet their expectations but exceed them because you can genuinely identify with their issues.
2. Talk to audience members before your presentation begins
If you can, mingle and engage with your audience before the presentation.
This will give you a headstart on creating a connection and building rapport, plus it gives you a valuable opportunity to gauge the mood in the room.
It also has the added benefit of creating a handful of interpersonal associations before you even begin, because the people you’ve already engaged with are no longer just nameless strangers.
3. Include your audience in the presentation
Another great way to build rapport is to encourage audience participation by asking questions and using analogies that resonate with them.
Make them feel included and part of the presentation by saying ‘you’ as many times as you say ‘I’. Also, be sure to allow a few minutes for questions and feedback at the end so your audience members can see that the rapport you’ve generated with them is genuine and isn’t defined by the confines of your presentation time alone.
4. Dress for the appropriate context
Choose your outfit wisely as this will influence how you are perceived by your audience.
Is it a formal presentation or more casual? Is your audience in the same industry as you, or an entirely different one?
If in doubt, err on the side of caution and go for something smart — it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed!
5. Don’t stare at PowerPoint
Using slides can be a great way to reinforce your message and highlight key themes, but try to avoid reading directly from them throughout your presentation.
To avoid losing the interest of your audience, make eye contact with them, keep your tone and body language natural, and only glance at your slides occasionally.
6. Avoid using acronyms and jargon
It can be tempting to use acronyms to speed things up but bear in mind that not everyone in the audience will be familiar with them.
The same goes for industry jargon – if they don’t fully understand what you’re referring to, you’ll struggle to engage them and your attempts to build rapport will be stifled.
Don’t be afraid to smile and let your personality shine through, as this will make you appear more likeable and trustworthy to your audience.
It can be difficult to remember to smile during a presentation, mostly because people experience incredible nervousness when they are public speaking. But smiling is an extremely effective manner of demonstrating positive body language and can evaporate any perceived chasms between you and your audience.
8. Avoid offensive language and humour
This one may seem obvious, but it’s crucial to keep in mind that everyone is different and comes from different cultural backgrounds — what one person finds hilarious, another might find inappropriate or downright offensive.
Humour can be a great way to connect with your audience and make them feel at ease but always use your best judgement because any humour in general is very subjective.
If there’s even the slightest chance that what you say could be taken up the wrong way, then just leave it out!
9. Build audience rapport by simply being you
The quickest way to build rapport with your audience is simply to be yourself, so don’t shy away from showing your audience your personality and your unique outlook.
No one wants to attend a presentation that’s being delivered by a robot — they want to feel a sense of connection and recognise genuine empathy from you.
If you find this tough because of your nerves, then tell your audience. Let them know how you’re feeling and you might be surprised by how much better you feel. Empathy is a powerful force and can endear your audience to you, so don’t be afraid to let your guard down a little.
10. Finish early if possible
No matter how much your audience enjoys the presentation, they will appreciate you finishing on time or even a bit early if possible so they can get on with their day!
By no means should you rush to finish your presentation, but concluding a little earlier than expected is always appreciated by audiences and also allows for a little more informal chat post-presentation.
It’s always good to leave them wanting more!
Expand your skills and deliver unforgettable presentations
At NxtGEN Executive Presence, we are here to empower your capabilities in the corporate environment.
Our Executive Presentation Skills training can provide you with all the tools and training you need to become a master at connecting with any audience.
Once you’re armed with the knowledge and practical experience you need, you will be able to build rapport, communicate through compelling corporate narratives, turn raw data into actionable insights, and influence those around you.