Ever struggled to 'fit in' with the group you are presenting to? You tie your tongue in knots, smile yourself into a hernia, but they remain 'the collective,' and you remain 'the outsider.' There's an ocean of ice between you, and so long as it remains, you're not selling your idea.
Let's break that ice. Let's get you assimilated into the Borg, so that they will be more willing to receive your ideas. After all, connect with an audience, and they will be infinitely more willing to indulge your persuasion.
One way to do it is to arrive early and get the gossip. Actually, missing it can be fatal to your talk.
A few weeks ago, I arrived early to deliver the opening keynote at a conference. The venue was a breathtaking country estate, where a number of conferences were taking place simultaneously.
I arrived early enough to join the managers for breakfast, and over coffee I learned about an interesting little problem they had faced upon arrival the day before. A group of government ministers were refusing to vacate their rooms. The ministers had made the cavalier decision that they wanted to remain, so my delegates simply had to wait while our local royalty emphatically overstayed their welcome.
If I had arrived just in time for my presentation, I would never have picked up on this juicy morsel of information. I would have had to begin 'cold.' As it was, I was able to use this development to great effect in breaking the ice.
Listen to this live audio recording and observe how I was able to become a part of that group's inner circle, by using an inside joke in my opening:
Opportunities for 'insider' language, humour and references are abundant, and present themselves often, if you're willing to pay attention. The previous speaker on an agenda might say something that captures the group's imagination, and which you can playfully refer back to. There may be a 'character' in the room. You may be blessed with the makings of comedy gold in the form of self-centered government ministers.
The key is to go with your radar switched on. You have to determine in advance that you want to connect with them, and that you aren't simply there to do a canned presentation.
The Art of Scouting
Look for opportunities to chat with key personalities among the group, and ask questions; "What sort of mood are they in? How has the conference been running so far? Anything unusual happen this morning?" Make the effort and you'll find the nuggets.
Landmines in the Room
Naturally, the reverse of this dynamic is equally important. If you miss a key incident, you can land yourself in some fairly hot water. You certainly don't want to employ your wittiest humour on the topic of our feeble bodies letting us down, not knowing that the chairman suffered a heart attack that morning.
Always attend the talk before your own. Keep your radar on and the mines of wealth, as well as the mine-fields, will reveal themselves to you. Use them to connect, and you will be warmly assimilated. Resistance will be futile!
Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and author of the books 'Own Your Industry - How to Position Yourself as an Expert,' and 'Relentlessly Relevant - 50 Ways to Innovate.' He helps brands to become the leading names in their industry through innovation and expert positioning. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Follow him on LinkedIn, or Twitter: @douglaskruger. Email:
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