Speak to me, not ‘everyone’!

Speak to me, not ‘everyone’

As communicators, we’re always on the lookout for ways to connect and engage with our audience. What do you think is not ideal in these two examples?

1. An email I received this week from UNHCR*: “Dear Sarah, Thank you to everyone who has donated to help…”

2. My weekly email from Tim Ferriss of 4 hour week fame, which begins each week with “Hi All!” and ends “Have a wonderful weekend, all.”


Tell me: do these communications engage with you directly?

Do you feel connected – as an individual, just one person – to the person or organisation sending the email?two brains communicating with lots of colour

I doubt it. And it’s exactly the same when we speak to an audience.

Unless we’re deliberating setting up the engagement to be between us as the speaker and the audience as a group (e.g. for group bonding purposesdon’t do it.

Some typical speaking examples you’ll hear, and possibly do yourself:

“How many of you have…?”
“Has anyone here found…?”
“You’ll all probably know someone who…”

Try replacing them with:
“Have you…”
“Have you found…”
“You probably know…”

The difference is immediate. We don’t want to feel that we’re just one part of a crowd (audience of ‘millions’ in Tim’s case) – that doesn’t make us feel special!

Talk to me, Tim – the only person sitting behind the screen in my world, wanting to connect with you and your content.

And it’s the same if I’m sitting in an audience engaging with someone speaking at the front. We don’t connect or engage with the information so easily, because it’s not directly targeting our brain. There’s the “all of you” filter to fight through, first.

Make me feel special. Or more invested.

If ‘special’ is the wrong tone for what you do, make me feel more personally invested in your presentation or talk.

And that’s going to happen more easily if you speak to my brain, not the brains of everyone in the room.

By the way, I’ll be honest – this can be a tricky one to fix.

It’s natural to speak to ‘everyone’, and that’s what pops out of your mouth, because you’re usually literally looking at ‘everyone’!

So it takes focus to change. If you begin by intending to change your language for the opening of your talk, webinar or presentation – or a key message – that’s a very good start. It may even be enough.

And of course if the odd one slips through it’s not a drama.

And start to notice when you hear other presenters or speakers do it. You’ll probably become aware of it happening everywhere!

Best wishes with your public speaking or presentations.

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