Become a Better Speaker by Connecting With Your Audience

Though this book is for anyone, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John Maxwell is a must for anyone who speaks in front of people on a regular basis. According to the book, the “Four Unpardonable Sins of a Communicator” are “being unprepared, uncommitted, uninteresting, or uncomfortable.”

Here are highlights I gleaned specifically for connecting while speaking in front of a group.

1. Keep it simple.

Too often, speakers don’t make it plain enough.  At best, the speaker lives with big words and lofty concepts as part of their everyday life.  At worst, a speaker tries to impress people by using large words. The best speakers know how to say things in simple terms that people can grasp and internalize. The measure of a great teacher isn’t what he or she knows, it’s what the students know. Help them get it by making it simple.

2. Give them something.

Think of giving your people something while you are speaking. Connecting is always about helping the people who are listening. Find common ground and offer them something helpful and hopeful. Speakers on stage for themselves will alienate. Speakers on stage for their careers will come across too slick. But a speaker whose goal is giving people something connects on a level that helps people change. People know when the speaker truly wants to make things better.

3. Say it over again.

As a communicator, come back to your main point in several different ways. The important themes need to be said over and over again, so people have a chance to hear them and live them. This is especially important for those who speak to the same group on a regular basis. Your church, your staff, and your team must know the critical parts of your mission and hear them repeated on a regular basis.

4. Get to the point.

Speakers need to get to the point before listeners start asking, “What’s the point?” Being able to articulate your speech in one sentence will help bring clarity to your speaking, which will help in your connection with others.

5. Increase your energy.

You can’t truly connect without an investment of your energy. Prepare before so you are ready. Fuel your talk with passion and energy so people hear what you have to say and feel it. Energy comes across in your volume, smiles, eye contact, and movement. Non energetic speaking will seldom move people to action.

6. Think about them.

Who is your audience? What do they need? How would you like them to respond? What is the purpose of your time together? What action would you like them to take? What is the setting? What have they experienced together so far? What is next on their agenda? Do everything you can to know about your audience and put them first. People don’t remember what we think is important. They remember what they think is important. Find out what that is and focus on them.

7. Inspire people.

Inspiration comes through words, demonstration, facial expressions, stories, delivery, passion, and purpose. Inspiring your people will do wonders for their response to you and the organization. Inspire them to want to become more, do better, and live more boldly.

8. Tell stories.

Stories make all the difference. People learn lessons as they hear stories. Stories inspire, teach, and entertain. Use them as much as you can to help connect people to you and your message.

Take a look at all the practical advice and great stories in this book!

Quotes from the book:

On Keeping It Simple
  • “Being simple is hard work.”
  • “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough.”
  • The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The great teacher demonstrates.”
On Connecting With Your Audience
  • “Communication comes from the Latin word communis, meaning “common.”
  • “Connections always begins with a commitment to someone else.” 
  • “Adapt to them — don’t expect them to adapt to you.”
  • “Nobody wants to be sold, but everyone wants to be helped.”
  • “If you want to win over another person, first win his heart, and the rest of him is likely to follow.”
  • “I’ve learned that if you want people to be impressed, you can talk about your successes; but if you want people to identify with you, it’s better to talk about your failures.”
On Going Beyond Words
  • “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”
  • “The more you do to go beyond words, the greater the chance you will connect with people.”
  • “Vision without passion is a picture without possibilities.”
  • “Connecting always requires energy.”
  • “Anytime you are in front of other people to communicate — whether it’s on a stage, in a boardroom, on a ball field, or across a coffee table — the visual impression you make will either help or hinder you.”
More Inspiring Quotes
  • “Of all the virtues gratitude is probably the most neglected and least expressed.”
  • “Silent gratitude isn’t much good to anyone.”
  • “The bottom line is that indifference is really a form of selfishness.”

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