A crucially important speaking skill is mind reading.
Okay, not literally. Anyone who knows speaking, presenting, sales, teaching, warfare, cooking, or any combination of these will tell you one of the most important things you can do is to know your audience (or clientele, students, or opponents). If you don’t know them and their needs, wants, and goals, your chance of success is limited.
Knowing your audience makes all the difference in the world.
Taking that one step further, knowing what is on your audience’s minds works amazingly well. This can function in a variety of ways. For example, say you are speaking to a group right before lunch, the speaker before you went over time, and you have 20 minutes to give a 60-minute presentation. You could just go straight into their lunch time and give your whole 60 minutes. Or, when you start, you could say something like “you are probably wondering if I’ll be done in time for lunch. I’ll make a deal with you. Stay with me and focus, and we’ll be done in 30 minutes.”
If it’s hot in the room, mention that. If there are only seven shopping-hours before Thanksgiving, mention that as well. Say you make a mistake (yes, we all do, sooner or later). Instead of a) apologizing or b) pretending it didn’t happen, you could make fun of yourself (appropriately). The audience will enjoy it, and will appreciate you taking responsibility for it. If you don’t mention the mistake, chances are it would stay in their minds and create a distraction.
Another great thing to do is to mention or refer to something a previous speaker (or your introducer, or MC, or the company CEO) said. If there was a big news item that day or the day before, mention that. These things WILL be on people’s minds. By making the connection to what is on their minds, you connect more fully to them.
You really don’t have to be a mind-reader. Whenever you do go to the trouble to figure out what people are probably thinking, they will love you for it, and connect with you.
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Datta Groover is the founder of Higher Speech, and is a professional speaker and speaking coach. Datta loves seeing how quickly people can improve every aspect of their lives, personally and professionally, by improving their ability to express themselves authentically. To find out more, go to http://www.HigherSpeech.com.