There I was, standing in front of a group of sales people giving a presentation on how tech, like the web,, and VoIP, was impacting our marketing efforts.

Being a technologist, I love all things tech. I love what it can do and how it can simplify our lives, provided that we know how to use it and how it will support us.

However, I’m standing in front of a group of sales people who don’t care that much about tech. Nor do they care about all of the great things that it can do. What they care about is making their lives easier, increasing sales, getting in front of new people and not having the CEO throw them new “footballs” to catch.

So, how do I get their attention and establish my credibility when the presentation is centered on something they don’t identify with?

The answer? Achieve rapport by finding common ground.

Opening The Presentation to Achieve Rapport

I opened with a brief story about how the president had tossed me this particular football. At the last moment, he asked me to deliver this particular presentation, saying that he had complete trust and faith that I was up to the task.  I knew this was something they were all familiar with.

Sure enough, they all smiled and rolled their eyes. It was that “Yeah, I’ve been in that situation before. He’s done the same thing to me” look. Now, I’m one of them. I just described a shared experience. It was a good lead-in to the agenda for the rest of the presentation. But the point here is that we started together. Mind you, I had to keep us together by constantly tying in what technology could do for them and how it was going to make their lives easier. But right at the start of the presentation, I had everyone in the boat rowing together.

As a speaker, you’ll have to constantly monitor your audience and know when you need to synchronize with them.

The first step, however, is to get your audience’s attention and achieve rapport with them. The easiest way to do this is by mentally stepping into the world they live in. This applies not just for the people in an auditorium, but for the person on the other end of a sales call as well.

Honestly see the world through your audience’s eyes and understand where they are. If you can’t do that, then your chances of “getting them” falls dramatically.

Achieve Rapport and Sell More. Get Out Of Your Head and Into the Your Prospect’s Mind

I remember being on a conference call with a friend, “Bob”. We were discussing marketing challenges for a new business concept when I asked a question. I asked, “What are some of the things that interest your potential customers? What can you do to interest them?”

“Bob’s” response was, “Well, I suppose I could make some guesses, but to do that, I would have to see things from their perspective and I just can’t do that.”

I was shocked! After all, Bob had been involved in sales his entire career. He considered himself a sales expert. Yet, he found this simple sales exercise impossible to do. He wanted to do things his way, to sell and market what he wanted his way. And he wanted to do that to everybody that he met with little regard to what his audience wanted.

You must  stand apart from your own thoughts and desires, and see things from your audience’s perspective. It doesn’t matter if your audience is a room of 200 people or one person in a sales presentation.

When you are the presenter, you are selling your ideas, projects, or information to your audience. Do your homework. Study your audience. Find how they define their world and discover what’s of interest to them. See things from their point of view and step into their world. Then, get their attention by talking about something that they can identify with.

When you can get into their world, you can achieve rapport. When you have rapport with your audience, you can lead them through the rest of your presentation.

For additional ideas on public speaking and communication effectiveness, get a copy of Maximum Impact, my latest collaboration with Paul Bagan on presentation skills and tactics.



Maximum Impact Public Speaking and Presentations