What’s connection got to do with the fear of public speaking?

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Do you get sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach at the thought of speaking in public? Do you worry you’ll forget what you plan to say? Fear you won’t be well received? Afraid you will stumble over your own words?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are in the majority. In fact, even people who are comfortable standing in front of crowds get the jitters.

Where does the fear come from?

At a young age we learn that there are risks associated with getting up in front of the classroom. And those risks boil down to one concern: rejection. More than anything, we want to be well received. To feel the “good” rush of adrenaline when we take the megaphone or the microphone. To know that people will listen when we talk.

Maya Angelou said it this way:

“At its core, public speaking is an act of connection. It’s about reaching out to your audience, touching their hearts, and inspiring them to take action. When you speak with passion and conviction, you create a bond that can last a lifetime.”

When speakers fail to make a connection

We have all been there. Stuck in an audience when a speaker drones on and on, with comments that have no relevance for us. We tune out, think of other things, fall asleep, or doodle furiously in a notebook.

  • Why do we decide not to listen?
  • There are many factors that make for a bad speaker:
  • Not connecting to the type of audience they are addressing
  • Lack of charisma or energy
  • Disorganized remarks
  • Misappropriation of the time allotted
  • Talking over the heads of the attendees

Six tips for effectively connecting with your audience

Whether you are speaking to an group of five or a crowd of thousands, the principles of connecting remain the same.

Think of the teachers who held your attention, or of the faith leaders who provided meaning, or of the authors who introduced new ideas. Every time we hear a speech, whether it be impromptu or prepared, we give it a “grade”. We leave feeling satisfied and informed. We judge the remarks to have been memorable or actionable. We walk away wanting to share what we heard with others.



How can you as a speaker achieve these results? Here are six recommendations for speakers to guarantee you a long-lasting connection with an audience.

Think of the acronym: ENGAGE

E –   enliven. You have just a few moments to convince any audience they should listen. Use your introductory comments to demonstrate that you have presence — that unmistakable quality of owning the room. Be fully in the moment, animate your facial expression, and demonstrate a lively interest in holding their attention.

N –   notify. Don’t assume the audience knows what you are going to talk about, how you will present your topic, and what you want them to get out of it. Tell them! You have the game plan; they don’t. So let them in on the structure of your remarks, what they should listen for, and how you offer to interact with them.

G –   grab. Capture their attention early. The very best way is through storytelling. People retain the lesson of a story far longer than a fact or a statistic. Data is static; stories convey meaning.

A –   amuse. Audiences are grateful for the chance to laugh. Give it to them. You don’t have to be a stand-up comic to successfully deliver a humorous take on your subject. You just need to figure out what entertains you about your topic and share it.

G –   give. The goal of any presentation is educating with new information, offering your unique perspective, and providing value. Remember who your audience is, and then speak to them with examples they will understand and that are relevant to their circumstances.

E –   encourage. Leave them feeling connected to you by inspiring them. They want to believe not just in you, but also in themselves. They want what you say to give them hope that their lives or situations can be better.

Here’s hoping that you approach your next speaking opportunity with excitement instead of fear. Let me know your best tips for connecting to your audiences at  Ann@AnnLouden.com.

A seasoned executive in the nonprofit world, Ann Louden is the founder and CEO of Ann Louden Strategy and Consulting. Recognized for her expertise in fund raising, high profile special events, and campaign planning, Ann provides counsel to chief executives, staff, and volunteer leadership.

Ann’s primary interest areas are education, health care for women and children, the arts, and adoption. As a cancer survivor, she led and was the twelve-year spokesperson for a breast cancer advocacy initiative that engaged thousands of survivors, volunteers and medical providers. With a mantra of bringing big ideas to life, Ann focuses on identifying a compelling vision and creating a goals-oriented plan for execution.

An in-demand national speaker for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Ann is the recipient of the Steuben Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named as a CASE Laureate. She is the author of the upcoming book: From Social Courage to Connection: Lessons from Leaders Who Change and Save Lives.

You can find her at www.AnnLouden.com.

Ann Louden

A seasoned executive in the nonprofit world, Ann Louden is the founder and CEO of Ann Louden Strategy and Consulting. Recognized for her expertise in fund raising, high profile special events, and campaign planning, Ann provides counsel to chief executives, staff, and volunteer leadership. Ann’s primary interest areas are education, health care for women and children, the arts, and adoption. As a cancer survivor, she led and was the twelve-year spokesperson for a breast cancer advocacy initiative that engaged thousands of survivors, volunteers and medical providers. With a mantra of bringing big ideas to life, Ann focuses on identifying a compelling vision and creating a goals-oriented plan for execution. An in-demand national speaker for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Ann is the recipient of the Steuben Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named as a CASE Laureate. She is the author of the upcoming book: From Social Courage to Connection: Lessons from Leaders Who Change and Save Lives. You can find her at www.AnnLouden.com.

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