At a recent Darius Rucker concert in Phoenix, he wasted little time personalizing his performance. When he tossed a guitar pick to a fan in the front row, who then didn’t catch it, he said, “Larry Fitzgerald would have caught it. I know. I’ve got him on my fantasy football team.” Fitzgerald, a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, is arguably the most popular sports figure in Arizona.
Later, a backdrop of the University of Arizona logo, followed by a Seattle Seahawks helmet (one of the Cardinals’ biggest rivals) with a red line through it, followed by a Cardinals helmet, followed by an American flag further cemented his demonstration of knowing his audience.
It added to what was a tremendous performance.
A number of years ago when I had assisted in arranging for Harvey Mackay to speak at the PRSA Counselor’s Academy Conference in Phoenix, he reached out to me in advance of his speech. He wanted a few fun facts about some of the higher profile members who would be in the audience. Mackay incorporated them into his presentation – and the crowd felt as if he really connected with them.
We’ve also seen it with public office candidates. Most recently, I saw Arizona’s Secretary of State Ken Bennett during a gubernatorial debate demonstrate his knowledge of the audience. In his closing statement, he dropped the names of real people in various towns and cities around the state – and mentioned what he would do to help them. He didn’t win in the primary – but I felt he had the most personal connection during that debate.
And then, while conducting a media training session a few days ago, I was playing the role of a reporter doing a phone interview. The client called me by name several times during the mock interview. We coach that. He used the technique to take the edge off what was a potentially controversial question.
We talk all the time about knowing your audience. It’s refreshing to see others who do the same.