How to See Your Audience

Episcopal priest Ian Cron proves an important point about people who preach:

Unlike speakers who give one speech, over and over, at locations all over the country, ministers of the gospel have to come up with something new each week.

The ones who do it well remember an important truth: greatness as a speaker doesn’t depend solely on the content you present. It depends, too, on whether we assess, diffuse, involve, and love each audience.

If we’re going to be great speakers, we’ve got to do what Ian does.

First, we must assess the audience.

Communication happens when what you present intersects with what the audience needs – which implies that we’ve got to determine what each audience needs. How? By assessing it.

To assess an audience, Ian consults with the event’s host, and with the Holy Spirit. Both know the audience better than he does, and both can show him what the audience needs. Once he knows this he can use his wisdom and passion to address those needs.

But if we’re going to be great speakers, we’ve also got to diffuse the audience’s anxiety.

Sometimes, in assessing an audience, you’ll discover what at first might alarm you: that you are about to make a thousand people uncomfortable. It happens when a conservative organization books a progressive speaker, or a Protestant church books a Catholic, or a speaker’s talk touches on sensitive subjects.

The people to whom you’ll speak have read your bio. And your bio made lots of them nervous. Diffuse what makes them anxious by naming it: “I’m probably about to disturb you.” Your decision to acknowledge it in advance expresses your empathy to the audience – and empathy deepens your connection.

Next, we must involve the audience.

The people who show up to see you speak need more than a monologue. They need to be involved. Their involvement can build a bond. A shared experience – like singing a song everybody knows, or reciting a verse, or asking a question – connects you to them further. Our own honesty and vulnerability goes a long way in making this connection.

And when we’ve connected, we’ll have exemplified what else we’ve got to do…

Finally, we must love the audience

Not impress the audience, not use the audience for our gain, but love the people who are sitting there. Our moment with them has to be seen as an opportunity to serve them.

We must be fueled not by what we get out of speaking, but by what we can give to the people who see us do it – by desiring and delivering what’s best for them.

Success on the business end of public speaking only follows those who approach an audience as Ian Cron does. I am so grateful for the influence he has had on my life and my career.

Have you had an occasion to really SEE your audience? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read Our Comments Policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *