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Connecting with the Audience

One important task of preparing to speak is planning to establish and maintain a personal connection with the audience. In his book, The Empowered Communicator, Calvin Miller discusses seven keys to unlocking an audience. He suggests that a speaker follow seven specific steps to better understand the audience and encourage connection.[1]

  1. Build a speaker-listener relationship. It is the speaker’s responsibility to connect with the audience.
  2. Step over the ego barrier. The speaker must be transparent and put aside focus on self.
  3. Promise your hearers usable information and keep your promise with content. A speech must actually contain the relevant material promised by the speaker.
  4. Create tension and resolution. Attention must be gained then released when information has been presented.
  5. Construct a pyramid of priorities. Listeners prioritize truth, interest, and inspiration. Speakers should be sensitive to these desires and respond intentionally.
  6. Make sure they hear through a “trinity of audio values.” Three vocal dynamics impact presentation: projection, dynamic, and pause.
  7. Kill interest-lag through six values of mobility or movement. Six values should be considered:
    • change everything on the spot – Spontaneous editing is often needed during a speech to adjust timing and content.
    • change what isn’t working – Adjustments and revisions may improve understanding by the listeners.
    • pull from accessible back file – Past knowledge or experience may assist a speaker in the moment.
    • casually ask for attention – A speaker may need to call for attention from the audience if minds seem to be wandering or distractions occur.
    • heighten projection – Increased volume or stress may refocus listeners.
    • quit early – Stop speaking before the audience stops listening. There is never such a thing as a bad short sermon or message

I am constantly in awe of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life as I stand to speak His message. Though I carefully prepare my material and plan specific illustrations or personal examples, the Lord often brings to my mind an experience or story while I am speaking that I have not consciously thought about in a long time. I share the God-given illustration and realize later that someone in the audience made a powerful connection with that account. The Holy Spirit, who always knows the audience, can pull from your past experience or previous knowledge to speak His Word directly to each person in the audience.

The most effective public speakers will exert effort ahead of time getting to know the audience and the occasion as well as preparing material. During the message, an excellent speaker responds to feedback from the audience, often editing and adjusting the speech in mid-message. When speaker-listener connection is maintained from the opening comment to the closing word, the outcome of the message will be positive.

Preparation for a speech is a challenging task. No two audiences are alike. No two occasions are alike. No two speakers are alike. In addition, the same speaker is different every time she speaks. Diligent work and dependence on the Holy Spirit is essential for a public speaker preparing to give a message. Face the challenge as you focus on your audience before you stand up to speak for them!

            [1] Calvin Miller, The Empowered Communicator: 7 Keys to Unlocking an Audience (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1994), 11-206.


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