Real Leaders

How to Build Unity When Speaking to a Diverse Audience

Each week, speech coach and leadership mentor James Rosebush will answer a question on how to improve your public speaking

This week, Mark Percy, President, and CEO of CLA Orange County, asks: “Collaboration is essential to get anything done these days. How can you authentically connect to your audience to help further this goal?”

Dear Mark,

Great question, and crucially related to today’s disruptive and partitioned culture. There are active and destructive forces wanting to divide communities, businesses, families, and schools. The public speaker is a leader and has an opportunity to enlighten, lead, and unify. Although diverse opinion is essential, unity around a standard premise or goal is critical to getting anything done. This particular public speaking skill is also equivalent to living productively. Let me propose three things a speaker can do.

  1. Approach the podium with a genuinely open mind, lack of prejudice, and appreciation for everyone in the audience, regardless of their opinions or beliefs. The audience will feel any baggage you carry when you stand in front of them, so keep it light!
  2. Be thoroughly educated and get briefed on the views, attitudes, and opinions of those in your audience. There is no excuse for not knowing who you are speaking to.
  3. Decide ahead of time that you will not show any anger or react adversely, despite your audience throwing these emotions at you. Don’t take their poison!
  4. Commit yourself to leave the audience inspired, and even if not unified, then at least appreciative of each another. You might end your speech by saying how much you’ve enjoyed being together and that your collective strength rests in your ability to work together. Then, thank them for their efforts — on any point or issue you feel will resonate. Respect them!

How do other readers of this column feel about creating a sense of collaboration with an audience? Comment below.

More like this

Most Recent Articles