Make Your Audience Members the Stars and you will Shine Too – 5 Tools

When you connect with one audience member, it usually does wonders in helping you connect with the entire group.

I believe this is because, by pointing out individuals in the group, the group begins to realize that you see them as individuals and not as one large group. They realize that you are really listening and watching them just as they are listening and watching you.

That’s the basis for a deep connection.

   When you make your audience members the stars, you shine too

Here are Five Tools you can use to make individual audience members the temporary stars of your speech:

Star-maker Tool #1: Make fun of him/her

This is the most dangerous one on one connection tool because it could backfire. However, if everyone knows you are having fun and you’re not making fun of someone in a serious or harmful way, you will be fine and you will connect with everyone.

For example, yesterday I gave a 3-hour workshop to Police Chiefs in Massachusetts. About 3 minutes into my speech, one of the Chiefs walked in late and sat down up front. I thought, “Should I say it or not?” I was contemplating using that old time-tested line that many comedians have used in the past. I decided, “Let’s go for it” and here is what I said (30 seconds):


The Chiefs loved it and that particular audience member got a kick out of it and it turned our good connection into a great one. It was smooth sailing moving forward. Is it risky? Sometimes. Keep in mind most of them were armed. However, it was worth the risk and it usually is. No risk, no reward.

Star-maker Tool #2: Share a story about the person

I usually use the person’s name if the story involves something that’s positive and helps the person look good in the eyes of the audience. However, if it could be perceived as negative, I withhold the name and let that particular audience member identify herself is she pleases. Usually the person does just that.

For example, here is a quick story I told about one of my audience members in Pennsylvania several months ago (you might have heard this clip before – 39 seconds):


As you heard, she did self-identify and she was proud to have said it. This tool helped her become a star in my speech and we have even stayed connected Online ever since.  

Star-maker Tool #3: Give one person dialogue and use his or her name.

This tool might seem a little trickier than the others but it’s actually quite simple. All you do is state what one of your audience members is likely thinking and say it out loud as if she’s saying it to you. For example, after an activity in which I asked my audience members to change 12 things about their appearance, here is what happened during the debriefing:


As you could tell, this generated lots of laughter but what you could not see was how much the person I mentioned was laughing. She enjoyed it the most and she became a temporary star of the speech. When you connect with one, you connect with all.

Star-maker Tool #4: User their names in a sentence.

This is simple and you’ve probably heard this from Dale Carnegie. All you need to do here is insert an audience member’s name into whatever it is that you’re saying. For example, I might say, “…but what I realized from this Marta, is that you master what you measure.” This is straight-forward, simple, and to the point. But make no mistake about it, this simple act of mentioning someone’s name continues to deepen the connection with your entire audience. Simple is powerful.

Star-maker Tool #5: Walk over and ask one person a question  

The first four Star-maker Tools all have to do with content. However, this 5th tool has to do with delivery and content. I usually do this during my transitions from one point to another. It’s a great way to set up a new point.

For example, I often walk over to one person as if he or she is the only person in the room and ask, “Do you ever watch the Olympics?” When he says “yes” I say, “Do you watch the track and field?” After I get a couple of yeses (I move on to another person if that person says no) I say, “The real tragedy I see is that most people live on ‘get-set.” Then I transition into my module about living on get-set.

The personal touch of asking the question to one person helps also by keeping the rest of the audience members on their toes. After all, because I have asked one of them, others could think, “I might be next.”

Final Thoughts on the One on One Connection

When you find ways to connect with individuals in your audience, you will automatically connect deeper with the group. Sometimes it’s because the group lives vicariously through that individual and thinks, “How would I respond to that?” and other times it’s because they realize that you actually see them as individuals and you are listening and watching them as such.

I don’t care so much about the reasons; I just care about the results. The results are great when you connect one on one. When you make them the stars, you tend to shine.

Craig Valentine

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