In 1979, AT&T debuted its iconic “Reach Out and Touch Someone” ads on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Over 40 years old and antiquated by today’s standards, this emotion-driven campaign highlighted the power of picking up a phone and connecting with someone across the street or across the world.
Though the tools may have changed — “devices” vs. landlines, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and let’s not forget the infamous Twitter — the concept of “reaching out” and connecting with someone (or lots of someones!) on an emotional level remains just as vital for today’s high-stakes presenters.
Too often, shyness or a lack of confidence keep speakers from focusing their presentations where they belong — on the audience. Self-conscious about how they look or sound, their presence can feel reserved and distant, almost as if they are talking to themselves.
Business leaders who break through this distance and reach out to “touch” their audience are able to make a powerful human connection. How do they do it? By getting their whole body involved.
Pause with a smile.
So simple, yet few things are more powerful than a smile when your goal is to connect emotionally, engage your listeners, and inspire them to act. A natural smile instantly builds rapport and gets the audience on your side, reducing your anxiety in the process. So, before you say a word, take a moment to look out at your listeners and smile.
The eyes have it.
The importance of eye contact for high-stakes presenters cannot be overstated. This visual connection creates a sense of hospitality and establishes credibility while gaining and keeping the attention of your listeners. Pick out a colleague or someone you met prior to your talk, look at him or her for a few seconds as you speak, then move on to another part of the room. Try to look at every part of the room, because eye contact is all about touching everyone in your audience, not just a select few.
Speak to be heard.
You already know that your voice can be your most important presentation tool. How can you use it most effectively?
- Maintain a conversational tone
- Project to fit the room, whether it’s a ballroom or a conference room
- Use your voice to emotionally connect with your listeners, using vocal inflection, pauses and pacing to make your point
- Make listeners feel as if you are talking to each person, individually
Your voice should project a confidence and energy that shows you are in the room…in the moment…and have something worth hearing.
Stay personally engaged.
Physical tools like a smile or vocal variety can only take you so far. Powerhouse presentations must involve the head and the heart — demonstrating beyond any doubt that you have a deep commitment to the information you’re sharing. How can you expect listeners to get excited about your message if you’re not excited? Mindlessly reading from your notes is always obvious, so make a conscious effort to “think the thought” and stay personally engaged from start to finish.
By taking a page from the AT&T playbook to “reach out and touch someone,” it’s easy to ensure that your message has the same effectiveness and staying power as this iconic campaign.