One of the biggest problems speakers face is focusing too much on themselves and not enough on their audience. Developing an empathetic approach to public speaking will help your speaking in more ways than one…
Empathy is one of the six qualities of an inspiring speaker, that I write about it my book “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking”
So many presenters fail to realize how important empathy truly is, focusing on their ever growing list of information they wish to impart. They think more about what they want to say versus what the audience wants to hear. Ever hear a speaker begin with, “Hello. My name is (fill in the blank) and I’m here to speak to you today about… blah blah blah yadda yadda”? That’s the very LAST thing that will get your audience engaged. Why not try empathy instead?
What is empathetic public speaking?
- Identifying what your audience wants and needs.
- Realizing that your audience have needs that they don’t even comprehend.
- Learning what your audience wants from your topic and what they want from you.
- Sensitizing yourself to the signals that show when you’re connecting with or disconnecting from your audience.
- Balancing different wants and needs within the audience, so that everyone is satisfied.
- Combining all the knowledge and presenting it in such a way that connects with as much of the audience as possible.
Why is empathy important in public speaking?
Many public speakers assume they already know what the audience wants (and some even don’t even think about it at all).
It might go a little something like this:
Yikes, I’ve got a presentation to give. Terrifying! Ok… where are all my facts and figures and details and bits of information? How can I make sure they realise I know a lot about this subject? How can I make sure I don’t look stupid? How can I make sure they don’t poke holes in my knowledge? Where’s that encyclopedia?
Whoah there, Miss Facts-A-Million, did you ask yourself what your audience actually want?
Um, well, no…
And if you did, would they want buckets of information, or something else?
Like a speaker they can connect with?
If we just needed to reel off facts as a speaker, then why would we need speeches in the first place? You could just direct people to whatever books to read and be done with it. Right? Right. Empathy is all about human connection. By building empathy, you can connect more to your audience and help them to take in more of what you say.
The benefits of empathy
As you begin to build empathy you’ll start to notice:
- People listening more intensely and becoming active participants in your presentation.
- Actual indicators of an audience relating to you. Eye contact, laughter at the appropriate times, enthusiasm, shining eyes,
- Positive comments and feedback from the audience such as “You hit the nail on the head” or “Your speech gave me exactly what I needed”.
- You’ll feel more positive about speaking in public. You find it’s easier to speak in public when you utilize empathy and it’s definitely a more pleasant experience.
- It’s always the empathy filled speaker that is remembered, sometimes even years later.
Empathy kills public speaking nerves
And the very best news is, that if you focus more on the needs of your audience, your own needs and worries and nerves will slide into the background too.
When you focus on others, you forget that you’re even nervous about public speaking. And the rest manages itself. More on how empathy helps reduce nerves in this video: In public speaking self obsession helps nobody!
Watch this space for the next segment on empathy as a tool for inspiring public speaking, where we will focus on learning about your audience and staging your public speaking environment.