Should you find yourself speaking to a group of people and not connecting, you’re stuck in a situation that seemingly benefits no one. For some people it seems to come so easily: gifted orators who electrify crowds, or performers who hold a club audience in the palm of their hands. Comedian Lisa Lampanelli has suffered her share of silent rooms en route to figuring out what connecting with audiences is all about, and why it’s such a meaningful thing to do. To her, it’s about the value and bonding power of shared experiences. “I want people to always say, oh my god, she went through that too?” In her Big Think+ video “Practice Servant Leadership — Let Your Audience Know They’re Not Alone,” Lampanelli reveals how to get your thoughts, words, and heart in the right place in speaking to groups of people.
Lampanelli talks about “servant leadership,” which is essentially leading by putting your audience’s needs first. While it’s not possible to know every detail about every audience member, you can still have a sense of what’s important to the group, and, of course, where you’re supposed to lead them.
The comedian conveys the message she wants to get across in a story of some kind that resonates with her audience as it makes her point. She asks herself, “Is it going to impact them emotionally? Is it going to resonate with them rationally?” To achieve these things, and for her own enjoyment, Lampanelli devises a narrative framework she hopes will delight the audience.
The story you tell
Lampanelli is convinced that the best stories — custom-designed to make a point — come from the heart. With your own genuine joy as its core, she says, such a story “takes people in and lets you know you’re all in it together.”
Lampanelli recommends writing down things that bring you joy. Not quarterly milestones, but things that make you personally happy. Build your talk around one such thing that has a connection of some sort to your topic. But joy matters. Lampanelli says, “I have seen speakers tell the same story for 20 years, and it still lights them up. So unless you can have this when you’re talking about it, it’s not the right story.”
Tips for discovering your most effective voice
Lampanelli says a really good way to find your public voice is to eavesdrop a bit on yourself, paying attention to what you naturally sound like when you’re at your best with friends, “when you see people really leaning forward and engaged with you.” That’s your style, right there.
She also finds that she’s especially on her game when she’s angry or otherwise impassioned about her topic. There’s an electricity to it. While anger certainly can’t be your go-to tone in business, it works for Lampanelli, who says, “If I have a fight with somebody right before I go onstage, I’m way funnier. It’s just that heightened passion gets me in the zone.”
The point of it all
Whether you’re in search of laughs or motivation, the main point of the connection you make is that “we’re all in this together.” It’s a basic, fundamental human message that can bring an audience together in pursuit of a common goal, whatever it is.