Connect with your audience from the outset.

In your opening remarks get their attention, set the tone for your presentation, and engage with your audience

Techniques I have used include my mihi, humour, and addressing the audience in their language.

My mihi – the traditional Maori language self introduction

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa /
Nau mai haere mai / Ko Aoraki te Maunga / Ko Arahura te awa / No Hokitika ahau/ Ko Cyril te Matua/ Ko Thelma te whaea/ Ko Yvonne Simpson toku ingoa / No reira/ tēnā koutou katoa

Greetings, greetings, greetings to you all / Welcome/ My mountain is Mt Cook Aoraki/ my river is the Arahura River/ I am from Hokitika/ My father is Cyril/ My mother is Thelma/ I am Yvonne Simpson/

It makes clear who you are – and establishes where you are from, and who you are connected to. Many years ago when I ran workshops I would also introduce myself and how I came to be the tutor – to establish credibility and enable the participants / audience know the answer to their first question “Who Is She?”. In Soroptimist circles I often share a very brief summary of my Soroptimist journey.

Use humour

I prefer to use humour, when I can: it relaxes the audience and gives me the chance to take a breath. When they laugh, you know they are with you, and wanting more. In 2011 I addressed the Soroptimist International Convention for the very first time. I was the President of SI of the South West Pacific, and it was my task to share our federation highlights of the past four years. I had never attended an international convention so was unsure of what tone, what level of formality was appropriate. I thought I would adapt my presentation delivery after I had watched the other Federation Presidents speak. That was my plan, but… when I saw the programme, I discovered I was up first!

I made two decisions: One, that it was going to be ok. I realised formality was not going to be an issue when I saw Soroptimists from America in white stetson hats. Whew! The second decision was that I had only me, so I would deliver in my style.
Don’t try to be someone else: that is already taken.

I shared my biennium theme: “Educate and Celebrate”. The “E” stood for “Enjoy“. I felt I was talking to a void, so I paused and asked the audience, “Who came to enjoy the convention?”. There was no response. Oh, dear, I thought. This could end up being dreary. I had a brainwave and my next question was, ” Who came to be miserable?”. There was laughter and I knew we were going to be Ok.

Address the audience in their own language.

A major speech I had to make was to over a thousand Soroptimists at the SI Convention, July 2015, in Istanbul. It was my first speech as International President and my chance to share my vision, engage with Soroptimists from all over the world and launch the 2015 – 2017 President’s Appeal.

The local hosts were Turkish Soroptimists. They had done a huge job and I wanted to honour that. I do not have an ear for languages – but I wanted to say thank you in Turkish. I set myself the daunting task of doing this.

I met Turkish Soroptimists Sevil and Mine (left photo) at the Soroptimist Leadership Academy in then FYROM,

The steps were: I asked a Turkish Soroptimist to help me. I knew Sevil would encourage me. I wrote simple sentences and Sevil translated them. I was confidant that I would not be saying anything offensive by mistake.

We held a Skype call and Sevil went over the words s-l-o-w-l-y. I wrote down my version of how I would recognise the sounds and practised with Sevil. She was kind and encouraging. She also made a recording of her reading my few sentences so I could practise on my own – which I did each time I sat at the computer. This was a huge undertaking for me.. but I knew from previous experience that the Turks might not understand my accent – but they would understand the effort. As an added insurance that they would understand I also included what I was saying in my PowerPoint Presentation. It was the best way I knew how to honour them.

How you start sets the tone…… What other suggestions do readers have to share?

Author: Yvonne Simpson

This blog shares my leadership journey and my passion for educating to lead.

One thought on “Connect with your audience from the outset.”

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