Barbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
5 ways to connect with your audiences
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
Are you looking to build an audience – not just a larger audience, but an engaged audience? As Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “If you would win a man (or woman) to your cause, first convince him that you are his friend.”
An audience needs to feel a connection with the communicator before they are ready to attend, listen, learn, and act on a message. They need to feel understood. They need to feel like they share common ground with you. They must believe that you are going to meet a need or solve a problem they have.
The importance of connecting with your audience is a recurring theme throughout Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide (due for publication late 2019):
Chapter 1 conveys the foundational truth that communication is fundamentally a relational activity. Communication is more than a message – it is a two-way exchange of ideas and feelings between people – people who are connected.
Chapter 2 describes the need for competent communicators to exhibit empathy and other characteristics of emotional intelligence in order to create meaningful connections.
Chapter 3 defines the components of successful communication, of which creating a connection between communicator and audience is number one.
Later chapters describe a variety of approaches for connecting with an audience. Tip series #17: 5 Tips for Connecting with your Audience summarizes many of these approaches and is available as a free download here:
https://www.nutritioncommunicator.com/resources (click on the pink button).
Bottom line: When an audience feels a connection with the communicator, they are more motivated to pay attention, to engage, and ultimately are more likely to take action regarding the message.
5 Ways to Connect with Your Audience:
#1 Listen and learn to know your audience
Connecting with an audience requires knowing them. To know an audience requires learning about them. Ask audience members to share their problems and concerns. Ask them to describe their dreams and aspirations. Ask them what they need and listen carefully to what they tell you. When you learn about an audience you are able to connect with them.
#2 Build rapport
The English word “communication” comes from the Latin word “communis” which means common. Building rapport involves finding common ground. When you know your audience’s concerns as well as their dreams, demonstrate that you understand how they think and feel. Share what you have in common. Be authentic.
#3 Break the ice
Open up your audience by engaging in a conversation or dialogue that feels safe and non-threatening. Use an “ice breaker” to increase the audience’s comfort level and willingness to participate throughout the session. Choose an activity that allows you to get to know each other and begin to form connections. Most importantly, build trust.
#4 Call people by name
Using audience member’s names creates a more intimate atmosphere than relating to them in an impersonal manner. Calling people by name recognizes their personhood. It helps you form stronger connections. Your audience will feel like you know them better. Use name tags or name cards to make calling people by name simple and natural.
#5 Demonstrate empathy
Demonstrating empathy is essential to creating connections with an audience. Show the audience you understand their feelings and emotions. Convey genuine caring and concern. Accept the audience where they are. When a communicator demonstrates awareness and responsiveness to an audience, it allows for connection and free-flowing communication.
With forethought and intentionality, all of these approaches are fairly easy to implement and with practice become second nature. As the quote below suggests, connecting with an audience is rewarding – for both the communicator and the audience. The feedback you’ll receive will bolster your resolve to make connecting with an audience your primary communication goal. Which of the 5 ways to connect do you need to practice more?
“Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we’re not alone in the world.” ~ Jonah Berger, Professor Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
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