Mark Brown and I were in the middle of recording a new podcast episode; and, out of nowhere, these words of brilliance flowed from his lips, “Create an atmosphere of intimacy.” It stopped me in my tracks; and I let out an audible, “Hmmm.” So, what did he mean? Great question.
When you and I are in front of an audience, online or live, we have this amazing opportunity to influence. Have you ever experienced a presenter who was completely at one with their audience? It felt like you were in your living room listening to a personal mentor. They are deeply connected, and a deep trust has been created. It’s powerful; and if you are anything like me, you do not want it to end. When there is that kind of intimacy, more transformation is possible. We, in the audience, are more open to a new perspective. But, what did they do to create this moment?
Honestly, there are many factors. First, they are completely connected with themselves and their material; they are transparent, authentic, and they come from an audience-focused intention. Another factor that helps make this magic happen is the tone that is set at the conference or meeting itself. However, the real question is: what can you do to help create an atmosphere of intimacy?
Sometimes when I’m speaking at a conference and doing more than one program and have some extra time, I actually request a bar stool to be center stage. After my introduction, I will say to the audience, “Before I get started, would it be OK with you if we just talk?” They are a bit surprised, but I wait for the audience’s acknowledgment and then sit on the bar stool and have a deep transparent conversation. I really like doing this, especially when it’s my Just for Laffs clean comedy night. They don’t see it coming, and we connect. I tell them transparent stories behind my story. It works for me and my audience.
One of my favorite ways to create an atmosphere of intimacy is by breaking the fourth wall. In theater, this term is used to indicate the invisible wall that we in the audience are looking through to watch the performance. There is a wall at the back of the stage and on both sides. If there was a wall that was on the front of that stage and reaching the ceiling, we would not see the performers. So, breaking the fourth wall can be done by literally walking out into the audience.
While delivering a keynote for Miracle Ear owners and managers, I used this technique. I spent a day and a half with them at their conference before I delivered my keynote. I got to know them, who they were and some of their personal stories. During my keynote, I came down off the stage and out into the audience to create that atmosphere. I honored some of the people I had come to know from hearing their stories during my time there. I gave kudos to them while literally standing next to them in the audience. I could have done that from the stage but chose to go out and connect more deeply and have more fun with them.
I love improvisation, so I love working without a net, with the right factors aligned because I’m never quite sure how each person will react. I had even more fun with it being in the moment and stood on a chair so everyone on could see me. It was a blast. I had fun, so as a result, they did too. When you sincerely lift up and edify audience members, the audience edifies you.
Consider finding a place in your presentation to test this out, and find a way to make it work for you. We each have our own style and it’s not for everyone, but it can be powerful and effective. If you do Q & A, for example, what if you went out into the audience and took the questions from amongst them? It is also really challenging for an individual in the audience to be disengaged when you are standing right next to them! It can be powerful. If you have never done this before, it can feel scary. It can also be exciting at the same time. Record yourself, and study what happens and how you can build this skill.
If your message and the transformation of your audience matters, the atmosphere you create matters. Join me in thanking Mark Brown for his brilliance. I knew it worked for me when I did that, but why it works became clearer when he explained it with his phrase. What could you do to create an atmosphere of intimacy?
What do you take from this? Please scroll down and add your comments below.
Great piece! As an educator, I totally understand the need to get “intimate” with my class. Getting to know who they are and why they are in my class made a big difference in how I approached my lessons. One of the greatest lessons I learned as an educator was to walk the room. Don’t stand upfront, go where they are. Darren, thank you for the lesson on how to transfer this skill to working with adults.
Man, that’s such great advice. Solid and down to earth. BE down to earth, right? And ALWAYS be solid!