Building Rapport - Building Harmony
'Building rapport' is the name given to the process of creating an understanding bond between yourself and someone else. For the public speaker that someone else is your audience. Good rapport ensures your message will be actively listened to.
Have you ever stood in front of an audience and known you weren't being listened to? Have you watched yawns being stifled or caught people peeking at their watches? I have and the more I've tried to rescue the situation, often the worse it got.
So what was going on? I got it right most of the time and count myself as a good 'people' person. I like them and mostly they like me but clearly I had missed something critical.
With reflection and analysis I discovered that something was building rapport.
a sympathetic relationship or understanding [French]
Related or similar words - bond, relationship, link, tie, sympathy, harmony, affinity, empathy
Rapport is what happens when you have everything in harmony. Your speech is right. The audience receives it well. They enjoy listening to it as much as you enjoy delivering it.
Let's have a look at the elements that come together to create the synergy of great rapport.I needed to know:
The very first thing I learned was that building rapport meant focusing on the audience. Not me, but my audience. I had 'to get over myself'.
- who my audience was
- why they were there to listen to me
- what their concerns were
- what their expectations were
- what their vocabulary was
- what their general beliefs might be
- what they had in common with me - background experiences, living situations...
Then using all that information I could shape my material to meet them.
The other ingredient crucial to the mix was truly understanding that first impressions count. A speaker has approximately 5-10 seconds from the time they stand up to talk to lay the foundation for empathy or good will.
Rapport builders are:
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for everybody who has been, or might be,
'called on to say a few words'
and wants to get them right.
- dressing and grooming appropriately for the occasion
- being organized,ready with suitable content
- demonstrating in your opening statements that you know who you're talking to because you've done your homework.
- using inclusive language - 'we' rather than 'I'
- identifying and emphasizing your common ground respectfully and sincerely
- avoiding jargon unless everyone knows what you're talking about
- showing that you're human too by sharing personal experience in the stories you tell
- being mindful of body language and making eye contact
- appearing confident, positive, in control and open
- understanding the effect of your vocal delivery
Having an audience is a privilege. Their gift to you is their presence. The gift we give in return is recognition. Building rapport says 'I see you. I understand and respect you.' It creates trust and where there's trust there is willingness to follow, to listen.
In essence building rapport is about identifying similarity. When we show an audience that we are like them we find a mutual starting place for the shared journey of the speech.
I discovered a gem as part of this process. The more I focused on the audience and their needs, the less self conscious and fearful I became as a speaker.
The second discovery falls into the category of what a friend calls 'startling observations on the obvious'.
It is much easier to give speeches or presentations to people we intuitively understand. These are people like ourselves and the people we make our friends. To build rapport with people who don't share the same interests, background or beliefs we have to step out of our shoes, out of our comfort zone and into theirs! It's harder but I think the rewards in understanding are worth the effort.
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