Presentation Tip: How to Build Rapport with Your Audience


At SOAP we understand that the success of a presentation is directly related to the ability of the presenter to deal with people according to their emotional state at any given time.


Hence, we decided to write this post about Rapport. But what, ultimately, does Rapport mean, and why it is important to a presentation?


An Internet search for the meaning of the word, Rapport, takes us to Wikipedia, where we learn that “Rapport occurs when two or more people feel that they are in sync or on the same wavelength because they feel similarly or relate well to each other. Rapport is theorized to include three behavioral components: mutual attention, mutual positivity and coordination.” Simply put, Rapport results from being able to establish a healthy, mutually empathetic relationship. And this is important in a presentation environment.


For a presentation, the ability of a presenter to generate empathy is crucial to success with an audience. That’s why it’s so important that the presenter knows how to hear, listen to and understand the audience and is able to imagine being in someone else’s shoes.


This ability to put oneself in another’s shoes is essential, especially as the mental state of an audience is changing throughout a presentation. And so it’s important that a presenter constantly monitor the mental state and mood of the listeners. Depending on the reaction of an audience at any given moment, to work with the mood of the group, the presenter should adapt stance and way of speaking, thus promoting Rapport.


How Can We Promote Rapport in a Presentation?


There are five important ways:


1. Treat Every Person as an Individual

Even if the audience has hundreds of people, deal with each audience member individually. If you’re dealing with somebody in particular in the audience, look that person in the eye and listen attentively. One study has shown that in a presentation the most important word is YOU. So use it as much as you like.


2. Look People in the Eye

Eye contact is essential if people are to feel important. So be sure to look your audience in the eye, especially when addressing a particular person. But also don’t forget to take in the entire group with your gaze. The worst thing a presenter can do is address only those people in the first row.


3. Ask Rhetorical Questions

If you’re dealing with a very large audience, every once in a while ask the audience a rhetorical question. This type of question forces a mental response. So, when not speaking directly to all audience members, with a rhetorical question a presenter can establish a connection with each individual.


4. Ask Direct Questions

If your audience is small (less than thirty people), instead of asking rhetorical questions, ask specific audience members direct questions. This way one can easily perceive the mood of those individuals while also triggering interest in all. An audience member never knows when he/she may be asked the next question.


5. Address Audience Members by Name

Whenever possible, use names. Naturally, we all like to hear our names because being addressed personally makes us feel valued and recognized. So before starting to answer somebody, ask him/her: And your name is?


Apply these five simple tips in your next presentation and see how your audience will naturally pay more attention.