To connect to your audience, introduce yourself
I’ve probably addressed this before, but it bears saying again. And again. And again.
If you want to start off on the right foot with your audience and control that first impression before you ever speak, introduce yourself. Instead of staying in the back of the room, or hovering by the podium or panel table reviewing your notes: Introduce Yourself!
Walk into the room and just go up to the first person you see in the audience and say, “Hi, I’m so-and-so and I’m your speaker today.”
Don’t be surprised if they give you a wide smile and introduce themselves right back. Then ask them a bit about themselves, and why they are there or other questions that will give you insight into what it is they want to get out of your presentation.
Then move on and reach out to more attendees. Try to reach as many as you can up until right before you speak.
What does this do for you? First, it gives you more information about your audience, so you can tweak your presentation at the last minute, as needed, to better meet their needs.
Second, it helps break the ice with your audience. It helps break down the speaker/audience barrier and make you seem more human and more approachable.
Why does this matter? Because the more familiar you are to them, the more responsive your audience is going to be to you.
And for those of you that have a fear of public speaking, this is an excellent way to reduce your nerves. You will be busy meeting nice people and learning a little about them instead of standing behind a podium nervously waiting to speak with a tape in your head telling you how afraid you are.
Of course the corollary rule to this is: Thou Shalt Show up 20 – 30 minutes before you speak