One of the best ways to stay connected and deepen your connection with your audience is to do something that I don’t see many speakers do. It’s to let your audience members beat you to the punch. What does this mean?
Let them beat you to the punch
Let’s use some examples. Listen to this quick audio 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 knew something very important about that audience. They knew I was the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. This means they were figuring out in their minds that it only took me one year before winning the World Championship. My job as a speaker was 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 did I finish what I was going to say, but guess what? My audience was 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 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 after my son said, “Okay daddy.” Instead, 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.” 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 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?”
Don’t Deliver a 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 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 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?
First, you’ll have to come to an understanding of where in your speech you can use this strategy. You don’t choose the spot; 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 all of 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 times you want to let them beat you to the punch.
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. At times they 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.
Where, in your speech, do you have your audience beat you to the punch?
What’s your best strategy for having your audience feel like they are helping to create the experience?
Is it absolutely critical that you use this strategy? No. Will it deepen your connection when you do? Absolutely. 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…
One year from now, how would you like to be 3 times better than the speaker you are today?
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