This is a guest post by Michele Cushatt. She writes articles, stories and devotional meditations for numerous publications including MOPS International, and Today’s Christian Woman, and has been featured on the Focus on the Family radio program, Hearts-at-Home conferences, and Compassion International.
Michele, her husband Troy, and their three teenage boys make their home in Colorado along with Nika, one adorable but very hairy black lab. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and her fabulous blog.
As a speaker, writer and a coach for those who do both, I’ve discovered many communicators forget the single most important aspect of communication.
They spend ample time doing research, preparing outlines and illustrations, practicing jokes and stories until each rolls from the tongue with precision and wit. Often they craft powerful openings and write conclusions that echo in their audience’s psyche for days, weeks even, long after their time together comes to a close.
But in all the preparation and expert delivery, too many communicators forget the driving force behind their communication to begin with:
Somewhere in all the hours of penning and presenting, many communicators make the mistake of thinking it’s all about them. A more grievous error could not be made.
Regardless of the medium, communication serves to bring about change. I’m fairly confident that somewhere along the way your life experiences created within you a burning message, a truth or concept you feel compelled to share. In short, you believe this message carries the pote
ntial to influence, to change people, organizations, beliefs, culture. Otherwise, you wouldn’t waste one more minute doing it.
In all the hard work that goes into speaking and writing, it’s easy to forget the faces of those who inspired this journey to begin with. I’ve done it. Caught up in remembering my notes and battling my nerves, 45 minutes passed in a blur as I delivered all the points on my outline without ever connecting with the woman sitting six feet away who most needed to hear what I had to say.
A polished communicator delivers points with precision. But a truly great one does so without ever forgetting her audience. How? Commit to these practices:
Connecting with your audience begins by seeing individuals. Not a stadium filled with nameless faces or a conference center packed with potential buyers. Jesus knew how to connect with individuals regardless of the size of his crowd. Though his listeners numbered in the thousands, He never failed to see faces. Whether it was the bleeding woman or the poor widow with her two coins, he wasn’t too caught up in His material to connect. You may not be able to address every need in the room, but don’t fail to see faces, imagine their stories, acknowledge that while you were busy preparing fabulous content, the man in the third row faced a life-threatening diagnosis and the woman in the back lost her marriage.
After seeing individuals and acknowledging real-life circumstances, allow yourself to be moved with compassion. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus demonstrated this beautifully:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” He didn’t stop at seeing; he allowed his heart and emotions to be interrupted. If you want to influence another’s life, you first have to be willing to allow your own to be moved.
This is where all your preparation comes into play. You’ve determined to see individuals, the reader or audience member who gave up time and space to listen to you. In front of you spreads a beautiful panorama of individual faces, each with a name and story that moves the heart of God himself. Because of that, you’ve allowed your own story to be impacted by theirs. You feel their joy, fear, grief and hope. You realize you’ve been called to this time and place because God, in His mercy, has chosen you to deliver a message to his babes. And although you’re overwhelmed at the thought, you’re also compelled to speak. With eyes open and heart prepped, you deliver the message burning within, connecting your words with those who hunger for them.
That’s communication at it’s finest.
Whether on stage or paper, being a communicator is hard work. It requires years of practice, not to mention hours of research and preparation for each project. In the end, however, the communicator who masters his craft is something to behold, indeed.
Even better? The rare gem who loves the person on the front row even more than his fabulous presentation.
How do you stay focused on your audience? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment.