In 1979, AT&T debuted its iconic “Reach Out and Touch Someone” ads on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Almost quaint by today’s standards, the emotion-driven campaign highlighted the power of picking up a phone and connecting with someone across the street or across the world.

Though the tools may have changed — Skype, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter — the concept of “reaching out” and connecting with someone (or lots of someones!) on an emotional level remains just as vital for today’s high-stakes presenters.

Too often, I find that shyness or a lack of confidence keep speakers from focusing their presentations where they belong — on the audience. Self-conscious about how they look or sound, their presence can feel reserved and distant, almost as if they are talking to themselves.
Presenters who break through this distance and reach out to “touch” their audience are able to make a powerful human connection. How do they do it? By getting their whole body involved.

So simple, yet few things are more powerful than a smile when your goal is to connect emotionally, energize your listeners, and motivate them to take action. A natural smile builds great rapport and gets the audience on your side, reducing your anxiety in the process. So, before you say a word, take a moment to look out at your listeners and smile.

The eyes have it
The importance of eye contact for high-stakes presenters is essential. This visual connection establishes credibility while gaining and keeping the attention of your listeners. Pick out a colleague or someone you met prior to your talk, look at him or her for a few seconds as you speak, then move on to another part of the room. Try to look at every part of the room, because eye contact is all about touching everyone in your audience, not just a select few.

Speak to be heard
You already know that your voice can be your most important presentation tool. How can you use it most effectively?
• Maintain a conversational tone
• Project to fill the room, whether it’s a ballroom or a conference room
• Use your voice to emotionally connect with your listeners, making use of vocal inflection, pauses and pacing to make your point
• Make listeners feel as if you are talking to each person, individually
Your voice should project a confidence and energy that shows you are in the room…in the moment…and have something important to share.

Stay personally engaged
Physical tools like a smile or vocal variety can only take you so far. Powerful presentations involve the head and the heart – demonstrating beyond any doubt that you have a deep commitment to the information you’re sharing. How can you expect listeners to get excited about your message if you’re not excited yourself? Mindlessly reading from your notes is always obvious, so make a conscious effort to “think the thought” and stay personally engaged from start to finish.

By taking a page from the AT&T playbook to “reach out and touch someone,” it’s easy to ensure that your message has the same effectiveness and staying power as this memorable ad campaign!

Author's Bio: 

Stephanie Scotti, Professionally Speaking
Executive Speech Coach, Communication Consultant/Advisor specializing in helping people deliver high impact presentations . . . when results matter! Highly regarded for her effective and insightful style of speech coaching, Stephanie enhances a client’s natural abilities to engage, involve and inspire listeners by building on individual strength and personal style. Applying her proprietary C.O.D.E™ methodology, she provides practical tools and personalized feedback that result in immediate, noticeable improvement. With 25+ years of experience and 3000+ clients, Stephanie consults with individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, international corporate executives (including non-native speakers from Russia, China, Turkey, Brazil, Poland, Italy and India) and the highest level of government officials including the President’s Cabinet.
Contact Stephanie at: or 908.790.0853