How To Connect With Your Audience: Tips for the Shy or Introverted Speaker (and the rest of us).

NOTE: A very, very brief “appetizer” version of this post appeared in Speaker Net News. Because the edit was an appetizer, I wanted to offer to speakers the Full Course.

how to connect with audienceWe’re fortunate that, as professional speakers, we are hired to help, serve, inform and inspire our audiences. In other words, we’re aware that the speech isn’t about us… even if it’s our story. No matter what is written or televised about “motivational speakers” (ie CBS’s Sunday Morning),knowing the focus is on the audience- even though we’re the person with the microphone- can help ease the discomfort for the speaker who is shy and/or introverted.

While my book has always addressed the issue of shyness, after a talk at National Speakers Association (Schmooze and Win), I added a chapter to How To Work a Room, How To Work an Audience, to a later edition of my book so that the discomfort of giving a presentation to “strangers” could be abated.

Attending pre and post receptions is a way for any speaker to be a “value-added” guest. While this is more difficult for the shy or introverted speaker, knowing it’s an opportunity to engage and form a personal connection with the audience before we get on the stage, can make it easier.

The benefit to speakers is that we, most often, will get additional information and have interactions that help us tailor our talks in the moment. And isn’t that the point?

The post-talk events provide an opportunity for further conversation that allows us to learn about future events that require a speaker as well as issues we can help address through consulting or coaching.

How To Work A Room BookBased on the chapter from the Silver Anniversary Issue of How To Work a Room, here are some of the best way to connect with the audience and other attendees at conference events before you speak:

Be sure to prepare:

1. Have our own 7-9 second self- introduction planned and practiced. It’s a pleasantry; not a sales pitch.

2. Read their website, online journals and a news curator (I read The for conversation topics.

3. Shift our attitude and focus from us to the audience.

4. Be involved with the group via Twitter sending valuable tweets with their hashtag before you arrive for your talk.

5. Approach people standing alone. Whether they think of themselves as shy or as an introvert, they will be grateful that you noticed then and open to talking to you. That’s easier than walking over to a group of people deeply engaged in a discussion.

6. If you need to step out for a moment for a “breath of fresh air”, do so.

We speakers rise to the occasion. A way to have the audience prepared for your presentation is to be part of the “greeting committee” for the event where you’re speaking. If you make it your “job” to meet and greet attendees— it will contribute to the acceptance and success of your message —that makes it easier whether you’re shy, an introvert or neither!

Working a room

Remember, most people are open, nice and welcoming and are happy you noticed them and started a conversation. Those people whom you’ve met will be the best, most attentive members of your audience.

Susan RoAne is the best-selling author of How To Work a Room et al. She speaks worldwide to companies/associations and universities who want to foster interactions, connections and build business relationships.

Susan can be found at

About Susan RoAne

Susan RoAne leads a double life as a sought-after professional keynote speaker and a bestselling author. Known as The Mingling Maven®, she gives diverse audiences the required tools, techniques and strategies they need to connect and communicate in today’s global business world. The San Francisco Chronicle says she has a “dynamite sense of humor.” To hire Susan to speak for your company, association or college, 1.415.461.3915