You can learn from really good talk radio hosts.
We’re not talking about the nutbag ones who like to humiliate callers and want everyone locked up, but the ones who create a real intimacy with the listener.
They good ones seem like they’re talking specifically to you. They never talk like they’re addressing a vast audience. It’s because no matter how large the audience, it’s usually just one voice talking to one listener in their room or car.
Talk in the singular
Part of the skill is using singular language: ‘you’, rather than ‘everyone here.’ It makes people feel more special, and that you understand them better.
Radio hosts also avoid the ‘addressing the masses’ tone of voice. Unless you really are addressing thousands of people, a more conversational tone usually creates a closer link with the audience.
That’s why people who listen to a lot of talk radio often regard the host as an actual friend they can trust.
How do you capture that sort of vibe for your presentation?
Your Audience is Not A Thing
Stop thinking of your audience as a thing - a mass of teeming life that forms a single organism, like the Great Barrier Reef.
You can spot speakers who think that way. Some have the thousand yard stare that suggest a previous career as a special forces sniper. Others scan the audience from side to side like a sideshow laughing clown, eyes never resting on any individual. So they never actually make meaningful contact with the audience.
Never forget that every audience is made up of individuals that you’re trying to persuade.
Eye Contact, One By One
The most important way to create the magic audience link is eye contact.
Communicate with the whole audience, but one person at a time. Find a friendly face to start on, and talk to them like they’re the only person in the room. Don’t break eye contact. React to their facial expressions. If they smile, you smile. If they nod, you nod.
Give them a couple of sentences. Then move on to another person on the other side of the room. And so on throughout the presentation.
Talking directly to people engages all the normal facial expressions you make when you’re talking passionately one to one, so even the people you don’t look at can sense you’re engaged.
It’s a huge help for your confidence. You feed off the energy of the audience, creating a loop of positive feedback that makes the whole experience much happier.