Why connecting with your audience is hard – and one thing you can do that will make a big difference

I help detail-oriented people share information in a way that engages their audience and that their audience will remember long after they speak. My clients often say that they don’t think they are connecting with their audience and are looking for tools they can use.

When I started presenting and for many years after that, I knew I wasn’t connecting with my audience. I was sharing really important information but my audience was disengaged.

Not connecting with an audience is something many people struggle with. If you feel this way, you are not alone.

Why is it so hard to connect?

One reason it is hard to connect is that many of us have important information to share. Why is that a problem? The problem is that information does not persuade. The reason for this is called “Confirmation Bias”. If you audience has a belief and you are attempting to get them to change their belief or do something different, they likely won’t hear what you are saying and, if they do, they are very likely to discount it.

There was an interesting study done before the US Presidential election in 2004. It turned out that when strong Republicans or strong Democrats were shown self-contradictory statements by their preferred candidates, the reasoning part of their brains weren’t engaged at all. Only the emotional part of the brain was engaged. When they figured out how the self-contradictory statements actually supported their candidates, it was the pleasure part of the brain that lit up, massively reinforcing their original point of view.

If you just share all your important information, your audience is very likely to tune out and not hear any of it.

What can you do?

Obviously you need to share your important information. It is important to do it at the right time and in the right way.

The one thing you can do that will make a big difference is to start with stories and to include stories to support each part of your key information.

Why are stories so good at connecting with your audience and having them remember your key information?

I learned about the importance of stories from Kindra Hall, who is a professional storyteller. When she spoke at the Toastmasters International Convention here in Vancouver in 2017, she shared four reasons why stories help you connect with your audience and why they enhance learning:

  • Humans love stories – Kindra shared a study of Super Bowl Ads. Some of the ads told stories. Some showed cute animals. Some used celebrity endorsements. The study showed that the Ads that told stories were the most effective.
  • Decisions from Emotions First – Humans make decisions based on emotions first, and then look for facts to reinforce the decision they have already made. Stories are the best way to make an emotional connection with your audience so they will decide to do what you are hoping they will do with the information you provide.
  • Stories Affect the Brain – When your audience listens to a story you tell, there are changes happening in their brains. Tere is an increase in cortisol, which is the focus and attention hormone. There is also an increase in oxytocin, which is the trust and connection hormone. When people are focused on you as the speaker and paying attention and they feel connected to you and trust you, they are much more likely to be paying attention and to remember the key information you share.
  • Stories are Uniquely Memorable – One of the reasons that stories are so memorable is because they engage the emotions, as discussed earlier. What that means is that the whole brain is engaged (emotional, visual, auditory, etc). Having the whole brain engaged enhances what is learned and remembered.

When you are planning your next informative presentation, remember to include stories, first to get the audience’s attention, then to stimulate their desire to know more, and finally to support the key information you are sharing.

One of the ways I help my clients is in finding and crafting stories they can use in their presentations. Check out my posts on finding stories (How to keep track of interesting experiences that you might use as stories in your presentations) and on crafting stories (How to add stories to your presentation (and what not to do)).

Need help with stories?

If you’ve been struggling to include stories in your informative presentations, sometimes a bit of outside perspective from someone who can provide feedback on your stories can make a big difference.

Using stories is one aspect of what makes an informative presentation memorable and engaging. If you’d like to review the other nine aspects, sign up for my free 45-minute AMP Up Session here [https://calendly.com/brenda-memorablepresenter/45min-amp_up].