The amount of common ground you discover will depend on the depth of your relationship with the group.

You have lots of common ground if you are presenting to family, friends, club members, or a religious group. It’s easy to find common ground because you know the people well and tend to share many experiences, interests, and values.

When you have moderate common ground with colleagues, it is a bit tougher to find overlap. You know them a bit, but not as much as close friends or relatives. You share some interests but possibly only around one or two things. Examine those points of intersection for a way in.

Let’s say you’re a scientist working for a biotech company, and you’ve been asked to speak at an all-hands meeting. Most of the audience members will be scientists, but you’ll also be addressing executives and administrative employees. To find common ground with them, think about why you decided to work for this company and what motivates you to do your job day to day. Maybe you wanted to use your research and problem-solving skills to help people stay healthy—a mission the others in the room will share or at least support. Finding such commonalities will help you connect with them.

You’ll have minimal common ground with a broad audience—for instance, a group of seminar participants from a variety of organizations and industries—you’ll have many types of people to think about. The overlap won’t be immediately evident because there are so many perspectives and backgrounds to consider. You’ll need to work hard to find or create common ground, but that work will pay off.

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