You can always tell a good public speaker. You can tell when they are comfortable with people. When they like people. When they enjoy talking with people. It’s obvious.
They’re the speakers that are out mixing with the audience before the speech. Talking and schmoozing. Meeting people and asking who they are and what they’re all about.
It’s all a case of being audience centered.
But why is being audience centered so important to a public speaker? Why should they spend so much time, meeting and understanding their audience before they get up to talk? After all, the audience is there to listen, isn’t it? It’s the speaker who’s driving the process and doing all the work?
Well not really. In this article, I’m going to share four reasons why you must be audience centered if you want to be a good public speaker.
1. People judge content by relevance to themselves. When you stand up to speak to people, they are willing to listen because they believe they can learn something. That’s why they show up in the first place. But that also means that they don’t have enough information to judge your content. If they had enough information, they wouldn’t need to be there. But they need to judge your content. To do that they actually judge based on it’s relevance to themselves. So you need to understand who they are and what their interests are in order to be relevant to them.
2. People judge your speaking abilities by your ability to convince them you care. People judge your speech intellectually by the three qualities you can control – content, organization and delivery. But buried in the delivery is an emotional component. Do you care about them? A snotty speaker who doesn’t care will always be judged harshly. But a person who truly cares – and shows the audience they care – will always be supported. They’ll root for you and forgive any gaffs you might make.
3. Extreme reactions by the audience flow from your understanding of the audience. Have you ever been heckled by someone from the audience? Have you ever had a standing ovation? Both of these extremes are directly related to how well you understand your audience. Get it right and hecklers will find themselves isolated. Their attempt to stand out will backfire. Get it really right and you’ll build friends in the audience. And the audience will show their appreciation.
4. Your confidence will be affected by your focus. Extreme reactions – positive or negative – may not be that common. But less extreme reactions – applause for example are. And every time you succeed, your confidence will improve. Every time you fail, your confidence will become less. Doesn’t it make sense to understand the judges that have so much control on your confidence?