How do we truly engage an audience? Is there a secret? This blog is all about the key to really connecting with your audience, in a way that makes them want to stop and listen to you, and go away remembering you for all the right reasons!
Hi I’m Hattie Voelcker, and what I’d like to talk to you about today is How to Really Connect with Your Audience, and to do this I’m going to talk about what the audience really wants from a performance.
Often as not, when we’re going to perform we think about what we want to happen in the performance, and what’s important is to think about what the audience wants, and what we want them to take away from in a performance. What the audience really wants is simply a good performance, and they don’t want a bad performance. Maybe every now and again there’s somebody who wants us to do badly, but it’s a rare occurrence.
What they want is a good performance, they want a memorable experience, they want to experience something informative, emotional, or just simply enjoyable. They want to go away having had a memorable experience and we want them going away having had a good, memorable experience, and something that’s been worth their investment of time, and of money if that’s appropriate.
So how do we give them what they want? Because we’ve all been to performances, whether at they’re of a speech or a song or just a talk, where we’ve been grabbed by the person from from “Hello” and we’ve also experienced performances where we’ve be left cold. Where we are distracted and we start planning our next meal, and we are totally not engaged with what’s going on.
So what distinguishes the two? What’s the difference?
I’ve seen all sorts of tips in researching this. Tips and tricks on how to engage your audience, how to captivate your audience and they all relate to specific examples. Whether it’s a gigging musician or someone wanting to do a decent speech, they all are particular tips and tricks related to that particular sort of performance. In reality what engages an audience is the same across the board, whatever sort of performer you are, and that is about having a relationship with your audience. Engaging your audience is about having the right sort of relationship with your audience and the key is to build a relationship in which they feel engaged, they feel valued, and they feel connected. Now how do we do that?
Well all relationships are about information and energy flow. When we are in a relationship, whether it’s a five-minute conversation with somebody, a wave across the road, or a proper full-blown relationship with somebody we are exchanging energy and information with that person during the relationship, and with our audience it’s about the right sort of energy flow in the space, and that goes from the simple energy flow of the sound that we produce with our voices hitting the eardrums and vibrating the eardrums, to the energy of the information within the words and what we’re saying, or seeing and the energy of the visual, so the light energy, what they’re seeing, how they perceive us visually. The emotional energy as well, what they are perceiving emotionally, and I’ve talked about mirror neurons and how that transfers between us, and you can take a look at my blogs on mirror neurons to find out more about that.
In return we get energy from them in the same way, in their response. So it may be in their applause, if it’s appropriate and we get it! It can be in their visual expressions, it can just be in their energy that we feel. We can tell when an audience is with us, and we can tell when an audience isn’t. I’ve certainly had experiences where I look around a room and go “You’re not with me!” and then I have to shift, and I have to attune to them and change my energy to connect with them again, and engage them.
So this exchange of energy is what defines the relationship and it defines how they perceive us, and how we perceive them. It also defines their experience of the performance, and our experience of the performance. For it to be the right sort relationship the energy and information flow has to be congruent with what they’re expecting from the performance, or from what they’re expecting from what they see, so if it’s a fight scene in a play then what they see and what they hear has to add up and the emotions have to tie in with that as well.
It all has to have a resonance in itself, and this means more than just getting the sound right and the words right, it means the bigger picture has to be right. As I said the visual has to accord with what we’re hearing, and more than that the emotional has to has to accord with visual and the oral. It all has to make sense because if it doesn’t then there’s discord and discord can make us feel uncomfortable. If we’re watching a nervous performer, we can feel nervous and then we want to disconnect sometimes, or we start thinking about the performer and how they’re feeling and how we worry about them, rather than in simply enjoying the performance. It can also leave us cold because if it’s all shiny and perfect and we’re not drawn in and pulled in, or feel part of the performance, then we disengage, and that’s when we start planning our next meal. If we’re just listening to a nice sound, that’s neither pleasant or unpleasant, or maybe it is pleasant, but it’s a nice background noise, then we’re not fully engaged we don’t feel connected with the performer, and we disconnect as an audience.
So how do we get the right energy flow? To do this we have to attune with what’s going on so we can attune with our audience, and this means committing to the message of what we’re doing. It means committing to the emotion and committing to the sound, as well as to what we’re doing visually, and committing to it fully. Leaning into it, to do that we have to let go of our insecurities and we have to let go of our worries because they get in the way of that connection, and they get in the way of us committing, and if we don’t commit then the audience sees the worries, they sees see the disconnect, and that’s the energy and information flow they get, and it’s not the energy and information flow we want them to have because they’ll go away with a memorable experience for the wrong reasons, or they just won’t remember it at all!
So my question to you today is – how are your worries and your fears serving you today, about performance? Because my suspicion is they’re not serving you at all, they’re getting in the way of you being your best, and producing your best, and really connecting with your audience. If you can dare to let them go, then that’s where the magic happens. That’s when you really engage your audience and they can really engage with you, because you are open and you are vulnerable, and you are honest and authentic in what you’re doing, because you have leant into the experience.
So the one true way to connect with your audience is to let go of your fears and let go of your insecurities.