How to Build Rapport and Connect with Your Audience

George TorokCommunication skills, Insights, Presentation Tips, Public Speaking Leave a Comment


Build Rapport and Connect with Your Audience

Do you want your message to resonate with your audience? The message is more likely to land well, be received and trusted if you have connected with your audience. They must know, like and trust you.

How can you accomplish that? By building rapport rapidly near the beginning of your presentation.

The way you do that is to demonstrate how you are like them. You might not know a lot about the audience, or the audience might be diverse or apparently different than you. You can still establish rapport by following this key principle.

You create rapport when you convey how you are like them. That might be a similar experience, a shared mindset or common desires.

When I’ve offered this advice to some executive speakers, they sometimes tell me, “George, I’m nothing like these people in the plant. How can I possibly pretend to be like them?”

Don’t pretend. Find the common ground. Don’t be deceitful. Be real, open and vulnerable.

Here’s two ways to find the common ground.


Build rapport with audience talk about family

Include Your Family

Talk about your family. It could be a funny experience, a tender moment or family tradition. When you talk about your family, your voice will naturally convey emotion, which the audience will feel. They will perceive you as a person with emotions about your family – just like them.

Don’t dismiss this method by saying, “Well of course, they already know I have family.” That’s not the point. That’s logical.

You need to show them how you feel about family because that’s an emotional connection.

Family experiences are full of poignant learning points and emotions.

Talking about family could be as simple as quoting advice from your grandparents or curious insights from your kids.

When I talked about the challenges with my three teenagers, many audience members approached me to tell me about their teenagers. That’s how you know you connected.


Reveal a Flaw or Embarrassing Moment

Again this is about being honest, open and vulnerable. You don’t need to reveal a major flaw or mistake, simply a point of stumbling. It’s a bonus if the incident is funny.

How does this help establish rapport? Because you show that you are imperfect, like them.

In the workplace, we are conditioned to put on a suit of armor and hide our flaws. You know that question that they ask you in the job interview, “Tell me about your weakness.” We usually make up a phony weakness, like “I work too hard.”

That’s not the kind of flaw I suggest. Instead talk about an embarrassing moment, mistake or flaw that has challenged you.

I suggest that you reveal a mistake or flaw that is not directly related to your job performance. If you are head of finance, don’t tell them about the time you missed a mortgage payment.

Instead, find a personal story about your vacation, backyard, or hobby. You get a two-for-on when you talk about an embarrassing moment with your family.

I’ve told the story about when I started my business and how self-conscious I was about arriving for the meeting in my old rusty car. I’d park a couple blocks away and walk.

And sometimes you are blessed with embarrassing moments that endear you to the audience. I was speaking on stage to an audience of about 300 women when a person in the front row said, “Did you know that your zipper is open?”

I stopped speaking, turned around and zipped up, then slowly turned to face the audience. I was silent and red-faced. I was clearly embarrassed. The audience broke into applause which calmed me.

I now had their full attention because I stumbled, recovered and continued.

I’m not suggesting that you be that revealing when you present, but you get the point.

The next time you are experiencing an embarrassment, ask yourself, “How might I use this story in a presentation?”


To connect and establish rapport with your audience, be real, open and vulnerable.

Build rapport with burnt toast

Build Rapport with your audience

How to build Rapport and Connect with Your Audience


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