In the sales profession it’s common knowledge that customers buy from people they like, even if those people are not the ones with the lowest prices or the most impressive PowerPoint slides. Chances are you have observed a speaker whose great message was lost behind his veil of arrogance, or a somewhat disorganized rambler whose message made an immediate impact because you simply liked her. “Personality traits and the attitudes of speakers either attract or repel audiences,” says author Dianna Booher, sometimes before you’ve even started your presentation. In her book, Speak With Confidence! Power Presentations that Inform, Inspire and Persuade (McGraw-Hill, 2003), Booher offers the following tips to increase your likeability factor with audiences.
Establish integrity through a third party. Ideally you want everyone in the audience to know what an honest, likeable person you are firsthand. Because that rarely happens, however, your next best option is to establish your integrity through a person the audience trusts. Convey that connection early either by having the person make the introduction or mentioning it during your opening remarks.
Sprinkle humility among the expertise. Sure, you need to know your stuff if you expect to close a sale, but you don’t need to be arrogant about it. Acknowledge expertise among your audience, use a little self-effacing humor now and then, and be sure to credit your information sources and any ideas borrowed from others.
Demonstrate goodwill and a desire to give value. “Consider every presentation you make a commitment to give something of value,” says Booher. “Audience members have to believe that you have their best interests at heart, have not arrived on the scene with the intention of boring them and are giving information designed to help, not hinder, them.” In general, audiences are not impressed that you know what you are supposed to know. Booher adds, “They are impressed that you are willing to help them know what you know.”
Meet people individually before the presentation. Introduce yourself to people in the audience and ask them about their expectations. Such a move communicates that you are aware of audience members’ individual presence and don’t simply view them as a group. It shows that you care about their concerns and expectations and enables you to build rapport while giving your audience a chance to see you as a regular person. It also lets you learn some names, which you then should use during your presentation.
Say thank you. Several years ago the conventional wisdom said speakers should never thank an audience. But a genuine, heart-felt thank you communicates your appreciation for their time and, as a result, always builds rapport.