One of life’s simple pleasures for me is something that others might dread: public speaking. For more than 20 years I’ve had the honor and privilege to speak in front of a wide range of audiences—investors, financial advisers, insurance agents and wholesalers.
A rookie financial adviser client of mine explained that he had held his first seminar and it had resulted in setting several appointments with qualified prospects. However, he was disappointed overall because he said that the audience barely said a word during his entire presentation. Even when he would ask them a question or attempt to interact with them, the room was silent.
If this has ever happened to you, please know that it happens to most speakers at some point in their careers. To combat that challenge, I’ve developed a solution that I refer to as “connecting the room.” If you apply this technique, I’m pretty sure you will never just hear crickets during your presentation again.
The following is a step-by-step process for connecting the room.
Step 1: Ask Strategic Questions
It’s no secret that the audience tends to be more engaged at listening when you ask them questions. That’s why it’s important to map out your questions prior to your presentation so that you have a strategy ahead of time.
Typically, I tend to start off a new subject with a question. An example of this was years ago when I prepared one set of questions for each section of my presentation. Instead of reading the Power Point slide titled “Inflation Eats up Your Purchasing Power,” I simply asked a strategic question to the group of retirees, which was, “How many people here paid more for their last car then they did their first house?”
Step 2: Get the Audience to Take Action
Another great way to help the audience connect with one another is to collectively ask them to take action by raising their hand. After I asked the earlier question, I paused and said, “Let’s see a show of hands of who can relate to that. Please raise your hand if you can.”
Immediately, several hands went up.
Step 3: Make a Connection
Next, pick out one person who seems to be paying attention or actively listening so that you can ask them to tell their story to the crowd. Ask, “What is your name?” then simply turn the dialogue over to them by saying something like, “Joe, when did you buy your first house? What type of home was it (ex: rambler, townhouse, split-level, etc.)? Was it here in town or somewhere else?” Let this individual share the limelight for a moment then continue asking a few more questions. Examples might be, “What was the biggest purchase item aside from your home that you bought?” and “Do you think you the prices for items like that will continue to rise?” Your final question should be a closed-ended question which elicits a “yes” or a “no” so you can emphasize your point. Finish the interaction by thanking the person, “Joe, thanks for sharing! Who here can relate to Joe’s story? Let’s see a show of hands.”
Step 4: Connect the Room
Usually a group tends to listen more intently when a speaker is dynamic and uses dialogue, versus a speaker who is static and utilizes a monologue. If you sprinkle in interactions throughout your presentation, your audience will be waiting for them. Use as many as you can—as time permits—to solidify your messaging and to strengthen your connection with those in the room.
Step 5: Make Your Point
Before moving on from one topic to another be sure to ask a summarizing question. Here is an example, “Does anyone know why things are more expensive today than they were when you bought your first house?” Let someone offer an answer and then explain your point of view. You could say something like, “The reason things are more expensive is because inflation eats up your purchasing power!”
Transitioning from one topic to another is often the best time to engage with the audience and have the group collectively relate to each other. Be sure your questions are catered to the demographic to which you are speaking and that the questions support your point of view.
Why Connecting the Room Works
When you use this technique, watch what happens to the people in the room, they speak more freely and are more apt to want to speak with you afterwards and hopefully they are on their way to becoming one of your clients. If they feel comfortable then they feel connected!
To schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me at, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at Advisor Solutions.
Daniel C. Finley
St. Paul, Minn.