Gary Genard's

Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

How to Have a Conversation with Audiences and Get Them to Like You

How to Have a Conversation with Audiences and Get Them to Like You

Want greater public speaking presence? Here's how to have a conversation with audiences and get them to like you. 

Chances are, you want to come across as a more confident and memorable speaker. That's as good a one-two punch as any for public speaking success.

Still, there are some more subtle aspects of a winning speaking style to be aware of. I’m talking about speaking with simplicity, clarity, a conversational tone, and being seen as likable.

If those attributes sound like leadership qualities, they are! Learn how to inspire and move listeners in my book, Speak for Leadership. Find it here on Amazon

Dr. Gary Genard's book on speaking as a leader, Speak for Leadership.

As a speaker you should always try to speak simply and clearly. One of history’s most creative thinkers, Leonardo da Vinci, said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” The most famous speakers in our language left an historical legacy because plain speaking rings in their phrases. Here are some examples:

  • Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
  • Winston Churchill’s “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream.”
  • Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” 

How about what NOT to say when you speak? That's important too! Learn more in my Free White Paper, "25 Words and Phrases to Avoid in Speeches and Presentations."

Great speeches—and remarkable presentations—contain far more ‘nickel’ (simple) than ‘dollar’ (sophisticated) words. Anglo-Saxon’s concrete direct quality usually has more impact than Latin’s flowery oration. The greatest thoughts are always expressed most simply, because simple language can be understood by everyone.

Consider this excerpt that shows the power of simple language. Corporate speechwriter Richard Dowis wrote it: 

Short words can make us feel good. They can run and jump and dance and soar high in the clouds. They can kill the chill of a cold night and help us keep our cool on a hot day. They fill our hearts with joy, but they can bring tears to our eyes as well. A short word can be soft or strong. It can sting like a bee or sing like a lark. Small words of love can move us, charm us, lull us to sleep. Short words give us light and hope and peace and love and health—and a lot more good things. A small word can be as sweet as the taste of a ripe pear, or tart like plum jam. Small words make us think. In fact, they are the heart and soul of clear thought. [1]


Did you notice that this entire 141-word passage consists of only one-syllable words?

Clarity and conciseness are key skills! Learn how to be more compelling and persuasive in my Free resource, "How to Be a Clear, Concise, and Compelling Speaker."

Have a Conversation with Audiences

When your words are simple and clear, you have a conversation with your audience. That’s key to successful public speaking. Why? Because both you and listeners are at your best when you are conversing with each other. That’s when you are most natural and least self-conscious. Isn’t the thought of having a conversation with someone less intimidating than an upcoming speech?

Because you’re at ease in a conversation, you look and sound more like yourself. You gesture, and color your voice in a way that’s much closer to the real you than during “public speaking.” You’re relaxed, and it shows—so you’re much better at expressing genuine passion and empathy. Any audience hearing you in that vein will relax into the conversation, becoming more open and receptive. Why wouldn’t they? If you’re genuine and enthused about your topic you’ll be more enjoyable to listen to than if you’re trying to be a good speaker.  

Want more on dynamic speaking in business? You'll find 101 key skills for more effective speeches and presentations in my book, How to Give a SpeechFind it here on Amazon

Dr. Gary Genard's Public Speaking Handbook, How to Give a Speech

Can You ‘Chat’ About Important Topics?

There’s another reason being conversational is vital to speaking today. Television—and now videoconferences—have changed the game. TV started it all by bringing people into everyone’s living room. Suddenly, performers weren’t speaking from public stages with us in the audience. From news anchors to game show hosts, they were in our homes. And they became very good at being conversational—at just chatting with us—because their performance demanded it. Mass communication became closer and warmer and more casual than it had ever been before.

These days, experts and everyday people alike chat with us via Zoom meetings, webinars, podcasts, and FaceTime. We even see them fumbling to press the right button to get things started . . . why, they’re just like us!

Want you and your team to excel in virtual meetings? Of course you do! Get my manual for boosting your online speaking skills and presence, Speaking Virtually

The result is that more than ever we expect speakers to be conversational, even about important issues. Watch a video of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech from 1961 and compare it with a speech on the same occasion by any of our recent presidents. You may be struck by how far we’ve come toward conversational public speaking, even in highly formal settings. To connect with listeners—no matter your topic or profile—you must strike a balance between professionalism and having a conversation with those listening.

A Magic Bullet of Speaking Success: Likability

And it’s important to be likable too. The speech coach to President Ronald Reagan (who possessed some charm as a speaker) called likability a “magic bullet,” and considered it a critical factor in speaking success. “If your audience likes you,” he said, “they’ll forgive just about everything else you do wrong. If they don’t like you, you can hit every rule right on target and it doesn’t matter.” [2]

Want to build credibility and earn trust with listeners? Download my Free ebook12 Easy Ways to Achieve Presence and Charisma."

Get an audience to like you, and they will more likely enjoy being in your company. Many business presenters keep their distance from the audience because they’re more attuned to their content than to listeners. You need to go in exactly the opposite direction. If it’s clear to people that you care deeply whether they understand—and if you’re working at establishing a relationship with them—they’ll sense something happening in the room. It will seem to them like a shared experience. And indeed, it will be. They’ll think of this speech as something memorable. If that happens, it’s guaranteed that they will think the same of you.

[1]  Richard Dowis, The Lost Art of the Great Speech (New York: Amacom, 2000), 89.

[2]  Roger Ailes, You Are the Message (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 83.

The above article is excerpted from my book, Speak for Leadership. 

You should follow me on Twitter here.

Cropped headshot for Speak for Leadership back cover -- 8.30.21

Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication ProfessionalsHe is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for boosting your online presence. His latest book is Speak for Leadership: An Executive Speech Coach's Secrets for Developing Leadership Presence. Contact Gary here.  


Tags: leadership skills,public speaking training,presentation skills,public speaking,leadership presence,public speaking for entrepreneurs,business speaking,presentation skills training,leadership communication,speech coach,speech coaching,public speaking for leadership,presence,leadership,leadership qualities,leadership coaching,leadership training,audiences,leadership development,speak for leadership,leadersip characteristics,public speaking skills for leadership,executive coaching,public speaking coaching,how to speak for business,how to command a room,effective leadership,online public speaking training,leadership speaker,leadership coach,virtual speech training,public speaking coach,how to speak to an audience,leadership presentations,speaking coach,presentation skills coaching,virtual speech coach,public speaking trainer,online executive coaching,virtual speaker,online leadership training,virtual leadership training,virtual public speaking coaching,public speaking books,leadership books,books on leadership,leadership authors,self-help books

Subscribe to Email Updates

Subscribe to the blog

Follow Gary Genard