Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Intimacy. It's the often ignored part of speaking. Which is remarkable, because it directly effects the impact of your message. Want your message to sink in? Then...

Speak to your audience as if you're speaking with a single person you like and respect. 

Then they will feel connected with you. That's partly about your choice of words, but mostly it's about your tone, eye contact and body language. Of course the more people in front of you, the more you'll need to speak up, but think of them as a single person further away from you and shifting about in the room.

Make intimacy happen immediately.

Literally, I'm talking about the first words that come from your mouth. The greeting.  Many presenters greet the audience with a stiff tone, expression and body language. The words say Good morning, but the message the audience gets is, I'm not talking to people, I'm talking to an audience... I hope it likes me. That kills intimacy and with it much of the impact of your message.

Don't mistake me, this isn't about being friendly. You often will be and should be friendly with your audience, but intimacy, real connection, should be there even in the most serious situations when friendliness would be out of place.

So, how do you get it right?

Just before you go out in front of them, imagine that you're about to have a chat with just one person - someone you like and respect. How would you greet that person? What would your expression be like? The look in your eye? Perhaps you would you feel a little warmth and relaxed pleasure in their company. Rehearse that opening greeting and first sentence.  Act it out. The research is overwhelmingly on side with the philosopher William James who said, "If you want a quality, act as if you already have it." The quality you want is the ability to connect with any audience.

Want to see someone get intimate from the first words?  Take a look at Ken Richardson's speech on education. It's not just his words, "Good morning... how are you?" - take in his tone and expression. Notice how he makes you want to keep watching.

Resolve to start like that yourself.

Have fun. Enjoy your audience.


It’s a myth that all you need is the correct words. Even if you already have credibility with your audience, the way you deliver your message is likely to have far more impact than the words you use. You can achieve strong professional presence and be highly persuasive with one simple idea.

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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