Contrary to what your Human Resource team may be telling you, there is nothing better to warm up a crowd and get people on your side prior to a presentation than good old fashioned physical contact. Now, don’t get carried away on this one, but I can guarantee you that the more hands you shake, the more people you look in the eyes and thank for being there the greater your odds of success. For the past fifteen years of my life, when it comes to presenting, physical touch has been my go to room softener. What I mean by that is often times a room prior to a presentation, meeting, speech etc., will feel cold and stagnate. The fastest way to change that is not to be behind a desk or in another room waiting to be introduced, but to be in the crowd. My rule is that if the group is 25 people or smaller I am going to shakes hands, high five, hug or back pat every single person in that room as I walk around before it starts. If I am speaking to a large group, I am going to make it around to as many people as I can, focusing on the ones I believe are the most influential in the room. The reason for this is obvious; they will inherently have followers who will buy into your presentation if they see their alpha leader buying in.
When you are up on stage or in front of a large group who in the crowd do you have to get on your side. Is it he front, middle or back of the room?
I had a college professor at San Diego State once tell me that he always focused on the back of the room, because he thought if you could win those people you would win over the class. You know what I always thought while in his class…”Why is this guy so focused on the back of the room?” I don’t buy that philosophy at all actually. I’m not an expert on castles or battles but it sure seems like every movie I have seen and book I have read shows the soldiers trying to take down the front wall so they can rush in and win the fight. It’s the same with a presenter; you have to win the front lines of your audience. If they start laughing, and clapping it will cause a chain reaction throughout the crowd. As a speaker, everyone in the audience should feel like you are speaking directly to them, it shouldn’t be noticeable that you are giving more attention to one segment of the crowd, with one exception…
Every speech, meeting, class, workshop or presentation should be personalized. So if you happen to be in a situation where you are speaking to people you don’t know, you need to get the upper hand. My strategy is called Front Row Fishing. Prior to my presentation, I literally walk across the entire front row shaking hands and high fiving everyone in the row. If I don’t know anyone I will look for people who already seem to be super engaged. Smiling, high fiving harder than normal, etc., you know the type. I ask them their name and I repeat it back to them. Then I say it in my head 4 or 5 times to help it sink in. The rest is the easy part, while on stage or in front of a room I will take a few times throughout my time up front to weave in a story or a question and I will call out my Front Row Fish by name, either giving them a compliment or maybe asking them a question. This will instantly build credibility for you and them, as well as anyone who happens to know them well as it established a bond between us. I found over the years that by following up after the presentation and thanking them for being so engaged will make you a connection for life.
The final important element to the “Touching is Good” segment is that touching goes beyond you as a speaker all the way to the group of participants in the room. In fact, I would say physical connection and contact for the audience is one of my best kept secrets for gaining an amazing atmosphere in the room. There are many ways to do it but in any setting you can get your room to take time to engage one another. Now this step is completely dependent upon the room and attendee set up. If you are at a convention setting in front of 1000 people you are going to do this differently than with a group of 15. However it’s simple!
Large Groups 50 - 1500+
Medium Groups 20-50
Small Groups 5-20
I am telling you in all cases above when you resume talking regardless of size, scale, scope or attendees your environment will be so much better than before. Your engagement, energy level and confidence will shoot through the roof I guarantee it. Please try these out and remember that when it comes to priming an audience, Touching is GOOD!