I was walking toward the subway and as usual, people were hurrying home. As I continued up the street I saw someone coming toward me. I started moving to the right in order to avert a head on collision. How did I know we would bump into each other? The person approaching me was a young man who was wearing headphones and looking at his cell phone. As he continued to move straight in my direction, he never looked up. He wasn't aware of his surroundings. He wasn't present.How often do speakers focus on what they want to talk about? They report facts and figures without sharing experiences. They talk at people instead of conversing with them. In sales presentations the seller touts the product or service. He brags about their company. Or the presenter gives the same dog and pony show without considering what's important to the audience. I once heard a celebrity speaker tell the audience that he decided to talk about a different topic than was advertised in the promotion. These kinds of speakers become talking heads. They're driven by their own egos. When you focus on content instead of context, you lose the connection. And the audience will disengage.
The best public speakers are truly present. That means eye-to-eye contact, listening, positioning the message in terms of what the audience wants, and helping them to connect the dots to their real world experiences. Jesse Jackson once said to parents, "Your children need your presence not your presents." It's the same with an audience. To be present is to first be connected to yourself. When speakers are comfortable with themselves and talk from the heart, they receive the audience, and then they connect. There is nobody in that moment but the audience. And in that moment they are truly present.