Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why Are So Many Speakers Fail to "Connect" With Their Audience? Some Humble Ramblings From Me

(Note: These random ramblings were my thoughts that I have posted at as my comments to Chapter 2 of John Maxwell's new book to be published in 2010)

Although John Maxwell has stated immaturity and ego as 2 out of the 3 reasons why many people fail to connect, I think a deeper reason (especially within the context of public speaking) under-girding their immaturity and ego-centredness is INSECURITY, especially for new speakers. I can remember the first few times when I am asked to speak: I was literally shaking.

When the speaker is insecure, he will want to seek the approval from his audience. And the more he wants to seek approval from his audience, the more engrossed he is in his own self, and how he can impress others, and as a results, he is more likely to fail to meet the needs of the moments.

Communication is very fluid and dynamic. I can speak on the same lecture many times, but each group of audience has its own expressed and implied needs, and the dynamics of the communication would be totally unique and different.

Sometimes it depends very much on whether the speaker can "catch" the non-verbal cues being signaled and transmitted from the audience. A joke may sound funny to one group of audience but it can be not funny or even offensive to another group. For that reason, I believe jokes can never be re-cycled. We cannot tell the same joke in the same intonation, the same manner twice. For that matter, sometimes I find prepared jokes to be very artificial. Jokes have got to be spontaneous.

Another problem I find as a barrier to "connectedness" with audience is Power Point presentation. Sometimes power point presentation can paradoxically kills the spontaneity of the communication. Power point presentation can be a friend or a foe. I find it to be true with many speakers (and myself have made the same mistake too) that we speak for the sake of speaking. We are obsessed with the goal of finishing off the many slides we have prepared without really thinking whether the audience can understand the meaning or not.

Different audience will have different attention span (although a common rule of thumb would be no more than 45 minutes). For that matter, nowadays I am no longer dictated by my clock or by the number of slides I have prepared to know when to stop talking. I take it that the first audience member who yawns as a sign that I should finish off and wrap it up soon (usually to take 15 minutes or so although that is not a hard and fast rule).

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