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.


Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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