Building audience rapport begins before stepping on the stage, just as assuring audience participation begins before a word is spoken.
At a resent speaking engagement, I was scared. I was frightened that I wouldn’t get the audience to participate while I was presenting. There were butterflies brimming in my tummy.
Stage fright is not my norm, but neither is speaking to a specific audience of first through fifth graders. My usual audiences at Mother/Daughter tea events are a mixture in ages from seven to seventy. Could I build a connection between the little ladies and me?
The next challenge was to introduce everyone to tea time along with a few etiquette tips in ten minutes. Typically, a tea time tutorial takes over an hour. The goal to inspire and motivate this audience in good manners in a short time caused my butterflies to flutter faster.
Arriving early, I introduced myself to the event planner, tested the mic system, and checked out the stage before sitting down. However, fear kept pricking me as I tried to sit still at the event planner’s table as I waited for guests to arrive.
During the wait I remembered every speaker’s most powerful gift – silent prayer. Immediately, the butterflies returned to peaceful gliding as I prayed. The pause in prayer reminded me that God’s Spirit was there to help and teach us all. I knew He would help me teach these skills in record time.
Then some mothers and daughters started coming in and settling at a table. Leaving my seat, I welcomed them and introduced myself. If I felt the little girl wasn’t too shy, I asked if she would be the leader of her table.
Many looked at me with great apprehension without making a commitment. I realized they needed encouragement so I was quick to show them the simple directions.
I held my hands straight out in front of me with the palms down. “Please, do the same.” “Curl your pink finger down.” I curled down my pinky. “Curl down your ring finger.” I would curl down my ring finger. “Curl down your middle finger.” I did this too.
They saw their pointer finger and thumb made a capital “L” on their left hand. On their right hand, their pointer finger and thumb made a capital “J.” The little ladies would smile.
Asking for help and showing the daughters how they could be leaders at their table gave me allies in the audience. The girls were pleased to be asked and so were the mothers.
When it was my time to speak, the butterflies must have gone to sleep. Calm replaced fear. I was confident because I had made new friends in the audience who were ready to help.
As I gave the presentation as planned, the participants went beyond my expectation.
When I asked everyone to stand up behind their chairs to learn how to always remember the correct side of a chair to enter, the little leaders did so with enthusiasm. As soon as the designated daughters saw my hands go up to stretch out, their hands were out in a flash. They led those at their table with delight.
However, what I had not shared with them earlier was the importance of capital “J” that was made by their right hand. They learned this with the remaining directions.
“Standing behind any chair, if you make the capital letters ‘L’ and ‘J,’ you will always know the correct side to slide into the seat. Place your capital ‘J’ hand straight out on the corner of the chair in front of you. This corner is the right side of the chair and this is the correct side to enter on.
Another thing to remember with capital ‘J’ is that he is always right. We enter a chair on the right and we pass food on our right side.”
What a pleasure it was to watch as the whole room of guests took their seats on the correct side of the chair. There was no bumping into one another or confusion. It was gracefulness in action.
Before my ten minutes were up, there was more interaction questions that I hoped would bring participation from the group. To my delight and the mothers’ amazement, a few of the little leaders enthusiastically raised their hands and spoke out with courage.
Plus the Spirit of God taught me something new after the event. Capital “L” and capital “J” stands for our Lord Jesus. Jesus always directs us right. He is right there when we look for Him even on our hand. Jesus made the event go right as He had planned.
Therefore, success resulted from prayer, self-introductions, enlisting partners, knowing the material, and looking to the Spirit of God to master fear, butterflies, and time issues. Building an early rapport made for a sweet tea experience.
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God. ~ Mark 16:19