The authentic, genuine YOU that you present to an audience—whether that audience is one person or one hundred—NEVER changes (at least it shouldn’t), but the way you communicate and connect with your audience by necessity must change with the context of the situation. From how you speak to the clothes you wear, you have to “know” your audience, what they respond to, and what they expect in order to communicate best with them.
I can speak articulately when I want and need to. I can even dress the part and walk the walk in the boardroom. But in the space I play in these days with Barrel O’ Monkeyz, people tend to be relaxed and informal. Therefore, from dress code to body language to verbiage, I tend to be more relaxed and informal. This doesn’t make me or my clients or members of my team any less serious about business success or any less capable or “immature.” I simply know my customers, I know my brand, and I know what it takes to engage them successfully. Do you?
People tend to have pre-conceived notions of how a 40-something year old (like yours truly) should “be” in front of an audience: how you should speak, the words you choose, how you should dress, and the jokes you should (or shouldn’t) make. Words such as “thoughtful,” “composed,” and “mature” might come to mind.
Those who know me know that I can be all those things. They also know I can be “loud,” “energetic,” and “boisterous.” It’s all part of who I am, and as I’ve championed in this blog space many times before (see Staying True to My Brand and Be True to Your Brand Story), being true to yourself and true to your brand is one of the cornerstones for success in business and in your personal life.
For example, the way you connect with your old college buddies who are in town for a visit and a few drinks surely differs from how you might engage a company’s board of directors. Even your body language and the clothes you wear will differ. Likewise, how you interact with a child about a particular subject will contrast greatly to how you interact with an adult about the very same thing.
The key to connecting successfully depends on being able to modulate your communication style depending on your audience and the situation, while remaining authentic and genuine. Formal ceremonies and formal meetings require a formal communications style (for the most part, I can check my Barrel O’ Monkeyz tee and my over-the-top “King Monkey” references and jokes at the door), while in more relaxed settings (and in my case consistent with my brand by design), body language, attire, and verbiage can be much more informal and relaxed.
Each approach is equally valid, but make no mistake: time, place, and audience matter.
- Think about your audience. The way they interpret your communication and your style will vary greatly depending on their age, education, gender, and even their social and political leanings. What you say at a solemn occasion (such as a funeral) by design should be very different from what you say might say at an informal networking event.
- Choose your words. Know what words will help you connect with your audience. Know which words they might find distasteful.
- Dress for the occasion. Don’t wear shorts and a tee-shirt when you know everyone else will be in formal attire. Likewise, don’t overdress the part.
The Power of Knowing Your Audience
You might be thinking, “OK, Paul, I understand the need to adapt to my audience, but how do I do that and NOT come across as phony or being too political?”
Nobody likes phonies or pretense, and when you step outside of who you really are, your audience will know it immediately and react accordingly. To stay genuine, you must first know yourself and your communication style (see my blog Leaders Have Many Voices: Is Yours Being Heard?), then simply adapt or tweak that style to adjust for your audience’s preferences and expectations. You’re not looking to create a whole new persona—nor should you.
For example, I’m a fun-loving and energetic guy. Whether I’m in front of a board room of 50- and 60-somethings, or out product testing with a client in the back country, that doesn’t change—but the clothes I wear, the words I use, and the tone of my communication does. I remain genuine, but I also respect the needs and expectations of my audience. I know what they’ll react to, and I adjust accordingly.
Do you know yourself and your communication style? How do you adapt to your audience?
Share your thoughts and experiences here.
Paul June is King Monkey of BARREL O’MONKEYZ, a full-service digital media and marketing group specializing in more creativity, ideas, and fun for active lifestyle consumer products, sports marketing, and brands in San Diego and Southern California.
UPDATE— DMOS Collective Kicker Tool Kickstarter campaign
The DMOS Collective Kickstarter campaign for their new patent-pending Kicker Tool™ shovelhead has generated lots of support and excitement. As all of my Monkeyz fans know, I’m passionate about anything outdoors, active, and fun, so I encourage you to give DMOS a little “love” and support with all the $1 (or more) clicks you can muster over at their Kickstarter page.