Articles by Max

How to Establish Rapport with Any Size Audience

First, Touch One: Some Basics of Rapport

1.  Have a purpose that is clearly stated in a service-based mission statement with a sensorily-based outcome in mind.

2.  Reveal your authenticity. When we first see you, does your behavior inspire trust from your audience?  To the degree this relates to likability, the most significant ingredient is the face; and here the smile is the most crucial factor.

3.  Your publicity must be congruent with what walks on stage.

4.  Model confidence. Voice has proven to be the single-most important element of communicating this element.  Other elements are significant yet voice quality and voice use rank highest in importance. Talk too fast – you sound anxious. Talk too slow – you sound uncertain.

5.  Walk on to the stage or platform in ownership of your space.

6.  F.F.F.F.Find a friendly face fast. Connect with one person the moment you walk on stage. Look at their face for at least two beats. Your impulse may be to look swiftly from person to person.  Balance this with occasions of staying longer with some individuals. Your home is the faces in your audience. In addition to laughter, the face will often be the dominant barometer of your successful connection with that audience.

7. Have appropriately relaxed arms, hands, feet, legs and face. Utilize effective breathing as an aid. Let this reflect in your gestures:

“To send, show up as a receiver.”
“Dance one dance with the nervous monkey.”
“Arrive ready to be nowhere else.”
“Rigidity militates against rapport.”


“We few, we precious few…”

- Connecting with the Smaller Audience

1. Use eye contact to land the message – with the “beat beyond.”

2.  May touch as appropriate – hand, shoulder, forearm.

3. Include possibility of involved facial response to audience behavior.  Generally have short latency of response to audience comments.  Use “we” and “us” instead of “I’ and “you” as appropriate.; used audience approval language.  Validate and confirm audience appearance, decisions, intelligence and appearance.

4. Subtlety of vocal expression has great possibilities here.  Adjustments in pitch, volume, rate and intensity can create a variety of moods and effects with smaller audiences that are difficult when the audience gets over a hundred.

5. Gestures and body language can communicate more nuances with smaller audiences.  Have available a rich gestural repertoire.  It’s good to understand and use the following gestural elements as needed:

  • Content specific – illustrate
  • Far reach-space friendly – ownership, comfort
  • Space sculpting – openness, receptivity
  • Time sustaining – integration, consideration
  • Impact anchoring – goal
  • Energy extending – beyond
  • Tension appropriate – model
  • Dynamically varied – rich

– See article entitled “Increasing Audience Rapport” for further explanation.

6. Develop your walk so it communicates alertness, directness, vitality, openness, intentionality and competence.

“Primitive brain scans first for threat.”
“People don’t buy because they understand. They buy because they feel understood.” - Unknown
“Wave form affects behavior.”

“At a Larger Distance…”

- Connecting with the Larger Audience

1.  Gestures and movement.  Less subtlety.  Distance will simply cause the speech to die if you rely on too many pauses.  The speech stops unless the pause is earned.

2.  P.A.T.H. to Connection – a way to connect far corners of the audience:

    a.  Poles Anchored
    b.  Together
    c.  Heart

3.  Find a time to walk rapidly from one area/side of the platform to the other – especially if you have been stationary for a long time.

4.  Look quickly from someone close to someone far away.  It’s a distance buster.

5.  Connect the dots – Move into the audience if appropriate and possible.  Perhaps have them stand.  May involve some movement.  Find out some detail about them that relates to the matter at hand.  Use audience mike to talk with others if 100 or more.  As you get specific people identified throughout the audience you can relate to them in succession, connecting the dots, as it were, thereby giving linkage to those heretofore less connected.  How many ways can you find to connect the dots?

6.  Bring members of the audience up on stage with you for an exercise or to illustrate something – people from various locations.

7.  Have people change places in the audience with others far away from them for a few minutes, then return, to illustrate the effect of positioning on response and perceptions to the speaker and the message.  Depending on the occasion, we can pay careful attention to increasing audience members’ connection with one another as well as that between them and us.

8.  Be sensitive to the distance from those far away and do nothing essential that impacts only on those close to you unless you take extraordinarily elaborate pains to explain and or show the entire audience what you have done that they should know about.  They must feel taken care of by your empathic awareness of distance and your ability to handle it.

9.  Note the unusual power of far reach-space and time sustaining gestures.  The greater the distance the more they will appreciate expansive gestures occasionally.

10. Pauses CAN be earned.  Notice you can build to a crescendo then pause before the word that would complete the thought.  It will be a need satisfaction.  It is a bit theatrical and that does not mean it isn’t sincere.
      – note Ron Arden’s work at Advanced Platform Skills in ’93 Tempe workshop

11.  Explore contrasts in vocal elements of pitch, volume, intensity and rate in a way that breaks audience awareness of patterns and predictability in your delivery.

12.  WORDS!  Their true power can be fully employed here.  Get this picture . . . a distant figure fashions ideas through words; and the distance is leapt in a single heartbeat – in a single crafted sentence or phrase as the words take shape and land with import and moment.  Have some ideas benefit from the best writer in you.

13.  Use sensory based words to enliven your connection with the audience.  Words that refer to the senses of smell and taste are less used today yet surprisingly evocative, yea even primitive, in their capacity to bring up memories and associations.  This can make the distance between you seem less prohibitive.

14.  We connect strongly when we use words that relate to our VITAL aspects:  occupation, property, loved ones/family, money, food and hunger, sex, acceptance and validation, space and power needs, breath, light, color, sound, touch.

15.  Give some of your comments a sense of vision; relate to the future.  This renders distance almost irrelevant.

16.  Use warm, nostalgic vowel-laden words to form pairs and combinations with more technical words to paint high-tech with humanity:

      ”A tonic of opportunity”
      ”An embracing development”
      ”Just let that idea relax by the fire until it feels like talking”

17.  Light – Turn up the lights.  Is the venue well-lit or gloomy?  Is there enough light on you?  Are some areas of the stage dark?  Does the lighting cast shadows on your face?  Is the lighting too harsh?  Poor lighting diminishes our sense of relationship with you, especially at a distance.

18.  Color – Do you have some bright color on – or will you use something of color during your speech – something that can make an appropriate impact across the distance?

19.  Take courses such as acting, improvisation, stand-up comedy that will increase your sense of easy performance.  This usually assists us in our comfort level about using some flair in our delivery without losing sincerity and authenticity.

20.  Learn to speak swiftly comfortably – to be understandable and dynamic at the same time.  Be capable of a quickly delivered moment that is impressive in its impact.

21.  Humor is magic in establishing rapport if appropriate and inoffensive.

22.  Angles are funny.  You can emphasize a humorous moment by a physical movement that uses the body’s capacity to point up the humor.  A raised shoulder, an elbow, an angled leg, something off-center can send a response to the back of an auditorium.  This gives you immediacy and vitality.

23.  Continue to develop the storyness of your presentation.  Select stories with discrimination with an eye to purpose.  Share stories of victory and not victimization, suiting length of story to importance of point.  Our stories must prove their applicability and reinforce our commonality and community.  A well-crafted, well-told story can create exceptional rapport with an audience.


Time to Go

1.  Close with impeccability.  Give your best expression, your best word choice to your close and it will anchor a deep satisfaction between you and your audience.  It should echo in their minds.

2.  Stay on the platform to receive the full response from the audience.  Don’t break the connection too soon.

3.  Integrate this material by “chunking” and with intentionality.