Connecting with the audience

The Secret to Connecting With an Audience – ‘They who honour me, I will honour…’

The full quotation is:

“They who honour me, I will honour. They who despise me I will disdain.”

It was used, memorably, in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ to illustrate the conviction and motivation of the hero; and his good grace in the fiercest of competition.  It’s a snippet from the Bible, obviously, and though I’m not a religious man, it strikes a chord with me.

It’s a useful thought starter for every presenter considering their audience and how to ‘reach’ them.  And I’m reminded of it when I see a speaker fail to understand that an audience should be courted and ‘warmed up’ before being ‘told’ anything by anyone. Honour is a strong word, and I like that.  Imagine what it means to ‘honour’ your audience.  Maybe it means-

  • Treating them as your equal in some things, your superior in most.
  • Knowing and respecting their opinions on your proposal, even where we might disagree.
  • Respecting their choices, their opinions, their history and their current ‘state of mind’ whether for or against you.
  • Reaffirming their language, culture, intellect, success and self-image.

Doing all of these things requires empathy, intelligence and a flexibility of approach that most speakers don’t have. It’s a hard thing to do well. Particularly when your audience might be hostile to you, and you feel defensive.  Too much ‘honouring’ and you’ll seem like a groveller, too little and you’ll look arrogant and uninformed.  Just right and you can move mountains.


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