Have You Fallen for the ‘Speaking Trap?’
My friend Tom frequently gives presentations. Recently he told me, “Six weeks ago, I got a last-minute opportunity to speak in person again. I grabbed it.
“Then I learned it was a presentation to a group of high school kids. Not my favorite group because they’re tough. But, I was happy to be in front of a live audience again.
“With my experience, not much bothers me. But, this one kid fell asleep in the front row. I don’t know why, but it made me really mad. I was angry!
He paused and asked, “Why do you think I got so mad?”
I said, “We’ve all been offstage so long and staring at screens that we’ve forgotten that when we’re in-person, people who don’t love our material can’t turn off their cameras and hide their boredom. In-person, it’s right there in front of the world for all of us to see.”
“And since we haven’t been in front of audiences, even if there are 499 others in the room who are enthralled with your talk, you’re susceptible to focusing on that one person who isn’t.”
Tom said, “I know, and it bugs me that I let it get to me.”
I said, “Even though you’re experienced, you fell into the trap.”
He said, “What trap?”
I said, “the belief that you’re there to help every person in the room.”
The Hard Truth About Being a Speaker
I’ve been speaking in front of audiences since 1993. Here’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way…
Some people in your audience are not going to like you.
It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable you are.
It doesn’t matter how passionate you are.
It doesn’t matter how charismatic you are.
Some people aren’t going to like you or your topic.
It may be because you’re a man, or you’re a woman.
Your skin may be too light, or too dark.
You may be too young, or too old.
You may be too heavy, or too thin.
You might remind someone of a creepy uncle, or an aunt who always
berated that person when she was a child.
The list of reasons is endless.
On the other hand, it might not have anything to do with you.
It’s easy to forget we don’t know what’s happening in the lives of the audience.
I reminded Tom, “The kid who fell asleep may be sick. His parents may be divorcing. He might’ve stayed up all night cramming for a test. He might’ve been interested in hearing you, but circumstances had exhausted him.
“You’ll never know why, but the key is to not take it personally.”
A New Perspective on Speaking Influence
I didn’t magically enter into the speaking world with this attitude. My mentors had to “talk me off the ledge” early in my career. When I got poor reviews or saw people in the audience who obviously had no interest in my speech, I thought I was awful and should quit.
Then my speaking coach, Craig Valentine shared this story from his college days…
He was telling his college professor he was concerned people might not like him for various reasons — his gender, his age, his skin color, etc.
His professor said, “Craig, you can’t please everyone. You’re always going “too something” for some people. They’ll think you’re ‘too black’ or ‘too male’ or ‘too young.’ You’re always going to be ‘too something’ for some people.”
Craig asked, “What should I do?”
“Son, be TOO good for it TO matter.”
That was all I needed to hear. My emotional reaction to disinterested audience members didn’t automatically shift that day, but from that day on, whenever I saw someone who was distracted or bored, I remembered Craig’s story.
A More Important Speaking Lesson
As I got comfortable with this new approach, I adopted a new belief:
If I’m focused on the audience — I’m there to help them solve a problem and improve their lives — AND I’m speaking from a place of giving, but some people don’t like me or my message,
If they don’t like you, it’s THEIR problem, not yours!
I understand if this is difficult to accept. Many people speak because they want to help everyone. The day you accept this is not possible is the day you’ll free your emotional energy to give more to the people who DO listen to you.
A New Approach to Your Speech Audiences
There’s one new attitude that helped me accept this reality.
My friend Kay Fittes and I turned it into a game. She’s a professional speaker. We‘d been talking about this problem of wanting to please every audience member.
We concluded if some people in the audience didn’t like us, we weren’t taking a strong enough stand on our topic.
We created a game — get 5% of our evaluations to be negative, or at best, neutral.
Not so we could be jerks or not give our best. Just the opposite. We set the target to encourage ourselves to be authentic and be firm in sharing our beliefs about our subject matter. If you speak boldly about ANY topic, some people won’t be happy.
We were determined to be clear with our points, and authentic with our audience.
We did get the occasional negative comments. But, the positive feedback was better than we’d previously received. The people who liked us were getting a deeper, more impactful message. And it resonated long after we spoke.
Want to be a speaker who leaves a wide, and long-lasting impact?
Don’t spend your energy worried because some people won’t like you. If you’re doing your job, some of them won’t. That’s the nature of this business
The people you should focus on are the ones who WILL benefit, whose lives you’ll positively impact. Do that, and you’ll accomplish your purpose.
And no matter who is in front, no matter what they’re thinking…
Be TOO good for it TO matter.
How Can an Airline Pilot Improve the Quality of Your Stories?
Why do pilots use checklists?
To ensure their planes are safe and their flight plans haven’t changed at the last minute.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a checklist to create our stories?
Fortunately, there is one. It’s called the Storytelling Checklist.
It’s designed for download so you can immediately begin writing your next story.
If you’d like to discover more and get your copy of this time-saving story tool, Click Here.