Treat Groups Like Individuals
The problem many people have when speaking to large groups is they treat the group as one entity. Almost like a massive blob, sitting in front of them. The problem here is this blob is made up of individuals, each of whom is listening and spending their own time listening. Now, if there are tens of thousands of people listening, this tactic doesn’t work, but when speaking to a group, it is important to reach everyone as an individual. This means striving to make eye contact with each person and looking at them directly when delivering lines.
Your Own Body Language
Take note of your own body language. You may actually be communicating something you don’t want to be based on what your body is doing. Stay open and never cross your arms.
You’ve probably been to public speaking sessions where what the person says is just boring. You want to leave as soon as the person started. You want to communicate so people listen and want to listen. How do you do this? You need to read the audience as you talk. This is one reason why you should master the art of eye contact with the group. You can see how each person feels and if they are drifting off by focusing on them. You don’t want to drone on and on about a topic. Cut down to just the meat of what you want to say. Nobody wants fluff, whether reading it or hearing it. However, you also want to engage them with dialog that excites them. Don’t just directly give the main point right off the bat. Build their anticipation, almost like a good story. This way, they want to hear the conclusion and wait around for that final point to wrap up everything.
Listen to the People
Being a great communicator isn’t just about talking to people. Yes, talking is a major part of communication, but you also need to listen. As the head of the group you command attention, but you want to listen so people will talk back. If you just continue to talk and talk over them, they will have no desire to create a two way dialog. Communication is give and take, so you need to open up for the take. One of the biggest problems many people run into is not listening and just talking until they are done. When listening to those you communicate with, you need to look past just what they say. Often times tone and how they deliver the message is important. The volume of their voice can mean something as well. There is context in the way people talk, and you need to learn how to listen to this context to properly communicate with those around you.
The Emotional Connection
Think of some of the all time great movies you’ve seen. Why are these movies great? Sure, their might be action or romance or the movie is funny, depending on your taste for cinema. But the true reason why you love the movie is because you form an emotional connection with the people in the movie. You feel what the character feels. So when they suffer loss, you cry along with them, or you cheer when they accomplish something. It is as if part of what they did or felt you felt to. Why? Because of the emotional connection. The best speakers create an emotional connection between themselves and those listening. Here is the thing about speeches. You may never actually remember exactly what the person said, but you will always remember how you felt about it. Maybe it made you mad, or happy, or sad or any other kind of emotion. You need to make this emotional connection with those you are communicating with. This way, even if they don’t remember everything you say, they will remember how they felt when you delivered it.
Read the Signs
Everyone has specific signs they give off when listening to something. You yourself give off signs without saying a word when listening. Body language is often the very best indicator for what is on a person’s mind. While they might not say it, their body will demonstrate it. So, when delivering your speech or talking with a group, you need to read the body language signs. Maybe people are all standing around with their arms crossed, which means they are less receptive to what you are saying. Perhaps their facial expressions are saying they don’t agree with what you are saying or have something different on their mind. Body language and reading the signs is important.
Preparation is key. Some people like to just wing it and while there are a few people who are great with this organic, natural approach, it is not for everyone. If you are someone who likes to deliver a speech, or talking points fresh, that is fine, but going through where people might stand, the lighting (so you know where it is located and what to avoid) and sift through your note cards one at a time, it will make it easier with delivering what you want without stumbling.
Avoid Tech Talk
Every industry has jargon or tech talk. If you are giving a speech within the community (like talking with IT professionals) you can use this specialized speech. However, for the most part it is best to “dumb it down” so everyone can understand.
You need to be an active listener to be a great communicator. To do this, you need to practice. How? Spend more time listening than talking. Also, never answer questions just with more questions.