As a professional speaker, I have spent a lot of time learning how to craft my message, manage my delivery, and find opportunities to speak. Those are all important skills to have if you want to be a public speaker. But being able to talk to your audience is only part of the total package that makes someone an effective communicator.
Whether you are speaking to a single individual or a packed room, communication requires an exchange of ideas. Unless your message is received, your communication is incomplete.
Think of it this way.
You can create the most beautiful note and put it in a bottle, then carefully set it out to sea. But until someone finds it on a distant shore, you’ve not successfully communicated. You can leave a voicemail, but it is useless unless the party you called remembers to check their messages.
Does anyone check their voicemail anymore? You might have better luck with the message in the bottle!
Getting People to Listen to Your Message
So how do you ensure that your carefully crafted speech is heard by your audience?
No. The answer isn’t to talk louder. Although, your presentation does matter. I wrote about that issue in a previous article, Are We Clear? How to Converse with Clarity.
What I’m writing about in this article is getting people to not just physically hear your message but to receive your message and actually think about it. That’s communication!
Now, there are lots of situations where you may struggle to be heard. Your listeners may be distracted by competing messages, electronics, or just life in general. You may not have the authority to demand attention. Or, maybe you are new to a group and haven’t established your credibility yet. I’m not going to share tips to deal with those specific situations in this article because that would take a really long time.
But, I am going to share two key methods that you can use in any situation to increase the chances that your audience won’t just hear what you are saying but truly listen.
All right? Let’s get to it!
How to Deliver Your Message so People Will Listen
First, tell a story.
I’ve written and talked about storytelling many times before. That’s because storytelling is an essential tool in every speaker’s toolkit. When you tell a story, people listen.
The human mind processes information by associating it with past experiences and knowledge. When you use parables, stories, or anecdotes to convey information, you are keying into this natural process of categorization. Stories help your audience place your information in their cognitive framework. Storyteller Steve Johnson explains more about this “mixture of art and science” in How your brain maps stories (with video).
To put it in simpler terms, stories help your audience relate to what you are saying. Just like speaking clearly, creating a familiar framework makes it easier for your listeners to move from just hearing to understanding and caring about your words.
Second, speak responsively.
The best speakers tell their stories responsively. They don’t just tell the same exact tale every time. Instead, they actively observe their audience and modify their words and delivery to generate a shared experience.
Dr. Hannah Harvey, creator of The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals DVD series, explains that there are three components to every shared story. First, there is the story itself. Next, there is the speaker. The way he or she tells the story and relates the experience is integral to how that story is received. And finally, there is the audience. Dr. Harvey explains that staying aware of your audience’s response during a live presentation allows you to adjust your pitch, tone, and even content to keep them engaged.
Don’t Just Talk, Communicate!
Successful speakers know that the secret to being heard is connecting with your audience. Using these two methods, bringing together the art and science of communication, you’ll make better connections and be a more effective speaker. Share your story with authenticity and a genuine interest in your audience’s response and you’ll be amazed at the results.
Now I want to ask a favor. After you’ve tried these two methods, come back and leave me a message telling me how it went. I’d love to listen to your success story!