The other day, after a speaking engagement, a dear friend who’s heard me speak more than anyone else asked me: “How do you do that, win over your audience? I have watched you and it’s like you read the women and are able to respond to them organically and the whole room is captivated.” I about choked, “Um, I do what?”
In pursuit of being a public speaker, I scoured the internet for tips on giving presentations. Through the years I have taken drama and acting classes. I performed on stage and spent semesters in school studying public speaking. I have taken presentation courses in continuing education offered by my corporate job and most recently attended Kathi Lipp’s Leverage Speaker Conference.
All this in pursuit of developing my craft. Yet, when getting up to speak, I still get a pit in my stomach. Red blotches on my chest that threaten to creep into view above my shirt collar. Not surprising, because if you search the internet you discover public speaking listed as one of people’s top fears next to spiders, bugs, and reptiles.
In the moments before speaking, fear strikes and my mind wanders to thoughts of whether or not my audience will like me. Have you ever felt this way? This pattern of thought serves no one and certainly not the audience. In fact, in that moment, I make speaking more about me and not about them.
When you speak publicly, you win your audience over by serving them.
They are there because they want to take something away from you. Whether it is to learn, be inspired, entertained, or to be motivated. You are there to meet their need.
When I think about serving my audience, I think about the one who came to serve. Jesus. Not only was He a speaker, He served His audience selflessly. His Sermon on the Mount is often argued as one of the best speeches in history by agnostics and Christians alike. As I study Jesus, I notice three things He does to win His audience over:
Know Your Audience
He meets them where they are. He knows them. Simply, know your audience. I will never be able to know people like Jesus knows them, but how else are you better equipped to serve your audience? John 4 tells the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. I love how in verse 29 she runs to tell her village about the “man who told me everything I ever did.” Jesus wins her over because He sees her and He knows her. Our audience wants to know we see them and we know them.
The next thing I notice about Jesus is how He invites. In Matthew 4:19 and 11:28, Jesus extends himself and says “Come.” He always extends an invitation and makes Himself available to His audience. Who doesn’t like to be invited and included?
As a speaker, it is our job to invite our audience into our journey, to bring them along with us. To be vulnerable and let them know we are in it, we have been there, and we can offer guidance and hope. An invitation makes things personal. It wins your audience over by letting them know they are not alone.
Share Your Story
Have you noticed how “Telling your Story” is big right now? Stories work! It is why marketers leverage stories in their campaigns. Telling your story is the quickest way to win your audience. When you engage in story, you get your audience’s brain active. This asks them to participate with you.
Jesus told stories. In fact, there are 27 parables recorded in the four Gospels. Jesus won people over with story and used parables to illustrate His truths. Mark 12:37 says, “Crowds listened.” John 12:9 says, “People flocked to Jesus.”
Sharing your personal story is a way to offer hope and share results. When your audience hears your story they better connect with you. Whether you try to teach, inspire, encourage, or motivate your audience. Your story is a great tool to move your audience to take some kind of action long after you exit the stage.
These three things are certainly not the only things Jesus did to win over and serve His audience, but they are three things I want to emulate whether I am having coffee with a friend, at book club, or speaking to a mom group.
What about you? What do you do to get to know your audience? How well do you use story to invite your audience into the journey with you and impact your audience in the present and beyond?
Julie Landreth has a passion for healthy and thriving relationships – especially in marriage and friendship. She is a speaker and a “wife coach” who loves sharing with women her passion for prayer and ways to actively cultivate a thriving marriage. She leads a growing number of women in San Jose, CA through her curriculum: Consistency and Persistency: The Art of Praying for your Husband.
Having been married 12 years, she and her husband have cultivated a marriage filled with intentional love, effective communication, sustainable fun, and a date night every Friday night for the last 9 years. She also finds deliberate ways to spend quality time with her nine-year-old son who shares many of her artistic talents. Follow her on Instagram via @julielandreth.
The conference of the year is right around the corner and you need to be there. Leverage, The Speaker Conference, is designed to be laser-beam focused on helping you master each component needed to be a compelling speaker. We’ll work with you perfect, practice and perform your craft through keynote mentor sessions, breakout sessions, and coaching sessions that include constructive feedback and personal attention.