One of the best ways to stay connected and deepen your connection with your audience is to let them beat you to the punch. What does this mean?
Let’s use some examples. Listen to this audio (37 seconds) and think about what happens after I say, “…in 1998.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “I joined Toastmasters in 1998, got my CTM in 1999…” However, I know something very important about my audience. They know I am the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. This means they are figuring out in their minds that it only took me one year before winning the World Championship.
Let them Beat You To the Punch
My job as a speaker is to let them figure this out and beat me to the punch. In other words, instead of saying it, I let them think it first. Their thoughts beat my words to the punch. Then and only then do I finish what I’m going to say, but guess what? My audience is already there! That’s why they laughed and became vocal immediately after I said, “I joined Toastmasters in 1998.”
Let’s listen to another example (34 seconds) from a different story and experience what happens after I say the words, “Okay daddy.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “’Okay daddy.’ I got home the next and where was he?” However, I decided to let my audience beat me to the punch. I paused, gave them a look that expressed a sarcastic, “Yeah, right” and let my audience think, “Oh, I’m sure Ace climbed up there again.”
Nowadays, after Ace says, “Okay Daddy,” I turn to the audience and say, “Raise your hand if you’re a parent.” They laugh because they understand where I’m going with this and they’ve beaten me to the punch. Then and only then do I confirm what my audience is already thinking by letting them know he climbed up there again.
If you really listen closely to the audio, you’ll find something very interesting. I NEVER actually said he climbed back up there. I let my audience say it! In a way, they filled in that part of the story without me having to actually say it. Then I simply picked up my story at the point where I said, “Ace what are you doing up there?”
Dialogue not Monologue
This is what I love about speaking. I learned from Bill Gove that speaking should be a dialogue and not a monologue. People buy into what they help create. Letting your audience beat you to the punch at strategic times during your speech makes them feel like they’re creating part of your speech, which deepens their involvement.
Let’s listen to one more quick example (47 seconds) of me letting my audience beat me to the punch. Experience what happens after I say the words, “Get lucky.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “Do you want to get lucky? Then stay ready.” However, I decided to let my audience beat me to the punch.
I looked one audience member in the eyes when I said, “Do you want to get lucky?” In this case, this person happened to be dressed in a costume (complete with a wig and a Marilyn Monroe-type outfit) for an event later that night. I let my audience beat me to the punch before I confirmed their thoughts by saying, “I’m looking at the wrong person…” This audience member got a real kick out of it and so did the audience.
Make no mistake about it, my audience beat me to the punch with their thoughts and then I confirmed it with my words.
How can you apply this “Let them beat you to the punch” strategy?
You can follow these 2 steps to use this seldom-used strategy.
1. Find the place
2. Give it space
Find the Place
First, you’ll have to come to an understanding of where in your speech you can use this strategy. You don’t choose the place; your audience does. Over time you’ll see where they beat you to the punch because you’ll be able to hear them wanting to chime in or be vocal.
But here’s the problem: you’ll never know this unless you record your speeches. You can’t monitor yourself on the spot, but you can certainly monitor yourself afterwards IF you’ve recorded your speech. That’s why I always say
What gets recorded gets rewarded
Whenever you begin to see where your audience is anticipating your next words, those are some of the places where you want to let them beat you to the punch.
Give it Space
Next, one thing you heard me do in every audio clip was to pause and let it happen. You must give space to let your audience think and beat you to the punch. You audience will take a cue from you and you can accomplish this with a facial expression like I used with my son’s story. The audience will take that cue and chime in.
Is it critical that you use this strategy? No. Will it deepen your connection when you do? Absolutely. Will it separate you from the pack of other speakers? Definitely.
When you partner like this with your audience throughout your entire presentation, you’ll find yourself connected at the core with them, time will fly by, and everyone will have a blast. So let them beat you to…