Influence The Audience

Persuade Your Audience

Connect and Influence

When you stand up to speak, you want to influence the audience don’t you? To persuade them to your point of view.

You could try waving bank notes at them but there may be a better way than bribery!

Perhaps you want to encourage them to take action in a particular way or listen to your advice and guidance. Or vote for them!

Whatever your purpose, before you can influence the audience, you have to connect with them; to develop a rapport with them.

Then your listeners will be much more receptive to your ideas. So how do you make that magical connection?

Here’s the secret.

Helping To Connect

Perhaps you could use a little psychology to help connect with them. And from there, to influence them.

Presenters often ask the audience questions to try to involve them, as much as to extract information. But often people are reluctant to respond, particularly in a large gathering.

However, try asking a simple question where you think most people would answer ‘yes’.

An example might be, “Who is nervous when speaking to an audience?”

If you raise your own hand you’ll find the audience response will be greatly increased. And you’ll start to connect with them.

Informing Influence

Of course, before you can influence the audience to your point of view, you need to convince them that you know what you’re talking about. You need to present all of the information required to make a decision.

Relevant facts presented in a clear and confident manner will reassure your audience that you are someone who should be listened to and trusted.

You need to know your subject well enough to speak with very few notes. Reading from a script won’t wash. Although it’s OK to have complicated facts in note form.

Maintain the Connection

We may not like to admit it, but we all have a relatively short attention span.

If you want to influence your audience, you need to maintain your connection with them. But it is difficult to keep an audience really focussed on what you are saying for more than a few minutes. So you need to help by building in audience ‘relaxation breaks’ fairly frequently.

If you are speaking for any length of time, it’s a good idea to have a glass of water handy. Don’t be afraid to pause and take a sip occasionally.

That brief pause will allow you to look at your notes and it will give the audience time to relax and then re-focus.

If it’s a business event or a wedding, the participants may have coffee, water or wine in front of them. If you take a sip, it provides the opportunity for the audience to do likewise without appearing to lose interest in your presentation.

Raise a glass and take a sip

The Influence of Humour

Using humour in your presentation can help you to connect with the audience. If you can get them to laugh from time to time, they will warm to you. And you will be more able to influence them.

Laughter is contagious. Once one or two start to titter, it will influence others to do likewise.

Do you have a point in your speech that you hope will be amusing? Yes? Then you can help it to work with a bit of influence.

As you deliver it, make eye contact with someone who you know is inclined to laugh easily. They’ll likely laugh, then triggering a reaction in others.

If it’s a big audience it will take time for the laughter to spread. Be prepared to pause for quite some seconds until everyone has settled again.

Once more, this allows ‘shuffle’ time for the audience.

By the way, it’s generally wise to avoid telling jokes. Natural humour usually works best and is more appropriate in most situations.

Visual Aids

Visual aids can be an effective way to focus the audience’s attention. This is particularly true if it is an object that you can hold up while speaking about it.

If you are using slides, think about how you can interact with them so that you don’t lose that audience contact. If appropriate, a better alternative could be the so-called ‘chalk and talk’ which uses a whiteboard or flip chart page to bring a more modern approach to the old school blackboard.

Genuine Speakers

Someone who reads from a script will come across as, well, someone who reads from a script.

As mentioned previously, you are unlikely to sound like you really believe what you are saying. The connection will be missing and it’s doubtful you’ll be able to influence the audience.

“Don’t look at what people say, but how they say it.”
Stephen Joseph, professor of psychology at Nottingham University

The way you use your voice and your body language is important. We like to hear people who look and sound enthusiastic.

Above all you need to be genuine when you speak to them.

If that means making the odd mistake or not saying quite what you’d planned, it is still far better than reading a script and sounding like a robot.

Are you persuaded? Can you see how you can influence the audience to aid your speech or presentation?

Last updated 18th April 2024

More Reading

Read the Impact Factory’s take on the ‘Ten Es‘ to influence an audience. (The Impact Factory is one of London’s leading training organisations.)


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