Simon Sinek is no stranger to commanding a room.
The author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last has given presentations on leadership to powerhouse organizations such as the United Nations and the United States Air Force. His TED Talk on the subject, "How great leaders inspire action," has garnered more than 22 million individual views. But Sinek insists that it isn't a perfectly crafted message that gets audiences to listen to him.
In his live chat on Wednesday with Inc., Sinek discussed how to gain the respect and attention of any audience. Whether you're an established CEO or giving your first major presentation, connecting with the human interests of your audience is a must.
When asked why he thought his TED Talk resonated so well with audiences, Sinek said it wasn't because of creative marketing or hype. Instead, he said, it was because the audience could tell that he was being genuine.
A few years into owning his own marketing firm, Sinek Partners, Sinek discovered that he wasn't passionate about his career anymore. He grew frustrated by people who told him to "do what you love." "I was doing what I loved, but I didn't love it anymore," he told Inc.
His career discernment led him to discover what he believes is the fundamental driver behind inspired leadership: that good leaders have to know the "Why" behind their organization. "Why am I doing this?" "Why does my organization exist?"
He mentioned his career struggles to the audience during his TED Talk, so that listeners could understand that for him, this message was personal. "My talk resonated because it was human, and for me it was my truth," he said.
Say you're presenting awards to two top-performing employees. The first employee accepts the award, goes up to give his speech, and says, "I deserve this. I did a great job." The second employee goes up to give his acceptance speech, and says, "Thank you. I couldn't have done this without my team." Who would the audience react to more favorably?
Regardless of what your business is trying to get out of your presentation, whether it's new customers or new potential employees, don't forget that you're there to give something to the audience, not vice versa. In the above scenario, the second employee to accept his award was giving his offer of thanks to the audience.
Sinek says that before he goes onstage for any presentation, he tells himself, "You're here to give. You're here to share." This mantra reminds him that no matter what, the audience has to be his focus.
When presenting to a large group of people, it's easy to get overwhelmed. But believing that you're speaking to a crowd, and not individuals, can cause you to lose that human connection with your audience.
To avoid coming off as impersonal, Sinek will look one member of the audience in the eyes for an entire sentence or an entire thought. Then he will look at another member of the audience in the eyes for a new sentence or thought. He will continue this pattern throughout his entire speech.
"Find the champion in your audience, and talk to them directly," Sinek said. That way, even if not everyone in the audience is captivated by your speech, you've found a new person or two to spread your message.