The funny thing about establishing intimacy with an audience is that it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you, the speaker, feel that an intimate moment has been shared. Like just about any desired emotion, what really matters is that your audience feels it. They, quite frankly, don’t give a damn about what’s going on in your own head, and neither should you. The audience’s focus is on their own personal feelings and experience. Your focus also needs to be on your audience’s experience.
What constitutes an intimate experience for your audience, be it an audience of 1 or 1000? It’s when they feel that you, the speaker (or manager, or persuader, or whatever you may be) gets them. They feel that you understand them, their context, their desires, their needs, their wishes. They feel that you care about their problems and are helping them improve their own lives on an individual level. Because they believe that you do (or would) understand them, they feel that you can also relate to them, that the two of you have something in common. That feeling of connection can happen whether you are sharing a one-on-one conversation or you are speaking to an anonymous group of people comprised of individuals you will never actually meet. It doesn’t matter that you, the speaker, feels this connection. Your audience feels it. Because they feel it, they will most likely accept what you have to say as right and/or reasonable.
Your job is to create that feeling of connection and intimacy. The difficulty is that you as the speaker become wholly responsible for generating that feeling. The speaker must be willing to forgo every consideration of their own comfort and constantly, constantly, constantly strive to establish an intimate connection with the audience. The audience doesn’t – and shouldn’t – give a crap about your own state. Your job is to project whatever it is you need to project to create intimacy.
Are you physically, mentally, or emotionally tired? That doesn’t matter. You need to appear energised and alert; the audience must see that you are energized about speaking to them. Energy means you care.
Are you completely bored about the topic at hand? That doesn’t matter. The audience needs to believe that you think that topic is the most important thing you could be speaking about at that moment. If you show that you don’t care about the topic, then neither will they. Boredom is the death of intimacy.
Are you uninterested in or lack knowledge about your audience? That doesn’t matter. You must either find something about them that interests you or be able to flawlessly imitate interest. The audience absolutely must feel that you find them worth your interest if they will allow an intimate connection to be established. Do your homework about your audience and find something out about them that interests you; become knowledgeable about the people you are speaking to. If your audience is small, you may potentially discover something about them on an individual level. If your audience is large or you don’t have the means do find out much about them, then research the company they work for, or the area they live in, or the culture they come from, or their demographic, or their interests. There is always, always, always something you can learn about your audience that will help you become interested about them.
Are you disdainful about your audience? Then fix that attitude, fast. It doesn’t matter if your experience or qualifications leads you to think you are somehow better than them. Your audience will pick up on your disdain within moments of you starting to speak. Something will betray you – the words you use, the posture you adopt, your tone of voice, a way of behaving that you never considered. Once your audience picks up on this, they will reject you and everything you have to say. If you are approaching a speech or conversation with feelings of superiority or disdain, then you again need to research your audience and learn something about them that you can respect. Intimacy cannot exist without respect, and respect is the antidote to disdain.
Are you in a foul mood? Then do something before you meet your audience that improves that mood. Go for a walk, meditate, look up funny pictures of cats. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it makes you feel better. If you are surly, your audience will become surly. No one wants to connect with a cantankerous swab.
Are you an anxious or nervous speaker? Learn some techniques to control your anxiety. Stage fright is normal, but you must appear confidence. Audiences want to connect with strong, confident speakers – speakers who look and act as though they can help them solve their problems. Learn how to project confidence externally even when you are quaking internally.
You, speaker, need to set aside your own state of being and focus entirely on what will create the desired state of being to those you are speaking to. So what if you felt that you just delivered the best speech of your life and that you really felt a connection with your audience? The real question is, did your audience feel the same way?