How to build trust with an audience when making a presentation

Got an upcoming presentation? Glen Savage has a few tips on how to build trust with your audience. 

As HR and training professionals, do you want to engage, entice and persuade an audience or potential client to buy your product, service or idea?  If so, trust is a must. According to Zig Ziglar: “If people like you they will listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you.”

So far so good, but with a new prospective client, how do you quickly garner trust whilst busy presenting your message? Using the simple three step process: know – like – trust.

  1. Know. Your audience needs to get a sense of who you are and how you operate, rather than knowing about you. Your credentials and background should be left to some promotional materials or whoever introduces you. If you open your presentation by talking about yourself you’ll see the audience tune out and start phone surfing fast. If instead you can convey ‘what I can do for you right now’, you are starting the process of getting known.
  2. Like. You need to connect with your audience quickly – they are far more likely to like you if they are engaged. They will be asking themselves why they should listen to you and what’s in it for them. Focus the spotlight onto them. Use a conversational style (lecturing, giving off the message that they are lucky to be in the presence of your greatness is a risky strategy). Ask questions to stimulate their thinking and draw them in and tell stories that indirectly flag the benefits of your idea, service or product.
  3. Trust:  In a short space of time your audience members are picking up that you have their interests in mind. They know you a little; they are beginning to like you; they are ready to start to trust you. You are focused on their problems and how you can help to solve them. You can use the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) approach – tell them how they will benefit early on and the rest of your presentation explains how and why.

From this point on, trust and persuasion are intertwined and you have the opportunity to keep on persuading the audience of your message.

Aristotle defined three modes of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos. How do you use these in your sales presentation?

Ethos – your personality, character and values build trust and credibility.  The energy and confidence you bring to the presentation underwrites your confidence in what you are selling.  


  • Smile and be (or act as if you are!) confident.
  • Stand tall and move with purpose.
  • Use gestures that match your statements to support them not distract from them. Avoid random hand waving.
  • Project your voice  – without yelling!
  • Look around the room and make eye contact with your whole audience.

Logos – the logical presentation of your information and argument helps it to be heard and understood. Having a clear structure with logical flow makes it easy for people to follow your train of thought and get your message. This brings your presentation to life and continues to build trust in you and your offering. Lack of clarity can lead to confusion for both you and your audience.


  • Start with the end in mind. This helps your whole presentation progress logically towards your conclusion.
  • Know what is important to your audience.
  • Clarify your purpose around those needs early on.
  • Build your presentation with a strong opening and conclusion. People remember the first and last things heard. This makes you memorable.
  • In the body, know what points you want the audience to remember and emphasise them.
  • Integrate convincing elements such as examples, analogies and real testimonies to support the points in your presentation body.
  • Include value/benefit statements that answer the question, “So What?”
  • Be clear and concise in your words.
  • Summarise the key points at the end.

Pathos – your sincerity, empathy and energy. While facts may impress and sway an audience, buying is an emotional action. Your sincerity, conviction and passion will most likely create an emotional shift in your audience. Understand the feelings in the room and you can tap into that emotion with your sales solution.


  • Involve the audience – ask them questions, invite their comments and feelings.
  • Anticipate questions on the audience’s mind and address them.
  • Use emotionally charged words – feel, embracing, luxurious, rewarding, challenging, satisfying, time-saving, money-saving, freedom.
  • Use your body, gestures and voice to emphasise what’s important
  • Talk in a conversational style and use the word ‘you’ to engage with each member of the audience.

In summary, present as you would be presented to. Connect with ethos, logos and pathos, build trust and create sales success.


About the author

Glen Savage is a public speaking trainer and coach and a member of Toastmasters International. Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.


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