How important is rapport?

How important is rapport in public speaking?

One of Patrick and the Celt's strengths, according to Hunter in The Celtic Way of Evangelism, was their capacity to build rapport with barbarian audiences. They didn't just communicate the gospel, the communicated it in a way that was flooded with trust.

I'm typically a high-rapport speaker. Rapport is a huge value in the Latino community and I've picked up on that from my family. I'm constantly building a bridge to my hearers.

But I've been in some low-rapport speaking situations recently. Doing stand-up at Scott's Roast was a low-rapport situation. I was so scripted, needing to be mean but not too mean, needing to be clean but also funny. I found it really difficult to build rapport. I ignored the connection and it went fine.

I heard a great sermon today. Same story. I didn't leave knowing the Pastor any better (although he is a great pastor), but I was deeply engaged by his sermon. Dr. Paul Bufford tackled Hebrews 6 with passion and clarity, but didn't take a lot of time to build rapport.

So, is rapport important or isn't it?

Maybe rapport in preaching is less important if you already have a connection with the people you're reaching out to. That's what I saw from Paul today. He loves the church, dives with enthusiasm into the meet and greet time, knows everyone's name. He can preach without telling cute stories or getting vulnerable about his own life because he has other places to do those things (and takes advantage of them).

Maybe rapport in public speaking is less important if the people you're speaking to are already comfortable, on their home turf. Part of the reason I might feel the need to build rapport so deeply is that I'm never speaking on my home turf and to groups where everyone already feels comfortable. If every Large Group and every church service was like Scott's Roast, I wouldn't need to build rapport.

This is instructive. Whether through our lives, our relationships or our words, we want to be calling people to join us on our journey with Jesus.

Maybe the best sermons are lived, lived out and preached. I think that's one of the things I'm learning as I immerse myself in the apostle Paul's letters. He was a man whose life testified to the gospel, whose community testified to the gospel and whose words testified to the gospel.

What happens when these three - life, community and words - are out of alignment?
What would happen if they all lined up?

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