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A Presenter’s Guide to Building Audience Rapport

February 2, 2015 / Blog, Presentation Science, Rick Enrico Blog, Tips & Tricks audience, audience rapport, presentation tips

Presenting your audience with creative slides and well-structured content may not be enough to capture their attention for good.

Aside from compelling structure and design, presentations also rely on your ability to connect and communicate well. It’s not enough to know what to do and say, you also need to make sure that the audience is on board with what you’re presenting.

Here are a few things to consider when establishing audience rapport in presentations:

Stop thinking of the audience as a group of faceless individuals 

Presentations can be very difficult, and often require speakers to face large groups of people. Presentation trainer, Olivia Mitchell, explains how being in such situations can sometimes trigger a nervous reaction, particularly when we pressure ourselves to do well in front of others.

As such, we sometimes tend to view the audience as a hostile or indifferent group we need to face and overcome. This leads to the stress of presentation anxiety.

But as we’ve mentioned before, the people seated in front of you are interested to hear what you have to say. Be aware of each audience member’s unique viewpoint for you to relate your own ideas well.

Do your research to learn more about the people you’ll be presenting to and you’re guaranteed to feel less anxious and intimidated.

Don’t underestimate the power of eye contact

Can you imagine talking to a friend who can’t look you in the eye? Wouldn’t that feel suspicious? The same is true when delivering presentations.

As the presenter, it’s your job to make sure that the audience trusts what you say. If they don’t think you’re credible, they won’t listen to the message you’re trying to share. Maintaining eye contact is important in that regard.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that you have to look each and every person in the eye. That will be impossible to do, especially if you have a larger audience in front of you.

Just do your best to hold the gaze of particular individuals seated all over the venue. Most VIPs will be seated in the front row, but don’t limit yourself there.

Offer the same courtesy to those seated farther away from where you’re standing.

Get them thinking by asking rhetorical questions

Another secret to audience rapport is making sure that your audience feels included in your presentation.

With interactive media becoming more and more prevalent, people are looking to become part of an experience.

An easy way to do this is by asking a few rhetorical questions throughout your discussion. Andrew Dlugan, speech coach and founder of Six Minutes, suggests a few strategies when asking rhetorical questions.

This includes encouraging the audience to consider their position and think about the subject at hand.

Encourage interaction by involving them in the discussion

If you have time, take the previous tip one step further. Aside from asking rhetorical questions, you can also ask audience members specific questions that will allow them to play a more active role in the discussion.

Allot a few minutes to hear their answers. You can also use special interactive apps to receive their input straight from their own mobile devices.

Regardless of the method you choose, always incorporate audience answers and opinions as you move on with your discussion.

You’ll find that an inclusive performance wields a more nuanced and interesting discussion. To build stronger audience rapport, don’t forget to acknowledge the contributors by name as best as you can.

Establishing audience rapport doesn’t have to be a back-breaking task. For a presenter, it can be the quickest route to meet the goals you’ve set yourself. Keep these tips in mind to make sure your message is delivered successfully.



5 Presentation Tools to Encourage Audience Interaction.” SlideGenius, Inc.. January 12, 2015. Accessed January 23, 2015.
Dlugan, Andrew. “How to Use Rhetorical Questions in Your Speech.” Six Minutes. Accessed February 2, 2015.
How to Shake Off Your Pre-Presentation Jitters.” SlideGenius, Inc. November 6, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2015.
Mitchell, Olivia. “The Three Causes of Public Speaking Fear (and What You Can Do about Them).” Speaking about Presenting. Accessed February 2, 2015.


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