SHOULD Everyone Like You When You Speak?
When you speak, is it important that everyone in the audience likes you?
Do you want them to agree with everything you say?
Before you give a knee-jerk response, give some thought to these questions.
If they’re honest with themselves, many speakers will answer ‘Yes’ to both.
Here’s one word of advice, if these are your goals:
Why Shouldn’t This Be Your Objective
If your goal is to be totally loved and to gain 100% agreement every time you speak, you’re not making an impact.
The best, most-impactful speakers are those that aspire to change the way you think, feel, or act. They are like-able. But, this doesn’t mean the audience will agree with everything they say.
How can I write this?
Because of experience. Early in my speaking career, I focused on sounding flawless and making sure everyone liked me.
What do you think the outcome was?
When I finished speaking, people would politely applaud. Additionally, they said kind words of support like “good job” or “you’re very polished.” Eventually, I understood the true meaning of these words:
“Nice try, but, you’re forgettable”
And forget me they did.
A Friend Opens Up My Eyes
My speaking turned around the day I received candid advice from my friend Kay. She’s also a professional speaker. She said, “Michael, your speeches sound ‘canned.’” I said, “What do you mean, canned?” She replied, “You’re trying too hard to come across as perfect. Everything is in place — your hair, your suit, your tie. But your message isn’t coming across because you’re not talking with the audience. You’re talking at them.”
I didn’t like hearing those words. But, she’s a good friend, and she knew I needed to hear them.
And she was right. I watched the video recordings and listened to the audio. It became clear how much I sounded like a ‘speaker.’
I wasn’t connecting because I wasn’t including the audience in my presentations. I was barreling through my memorized talk ,afraid of not getting out the information I wanted to share.
A New Goal When I Speak
As a result of this insight, my goal changed. I focused on being conversational in my speeches, and stopped worrying about perfection.
In addition, I picked up an understanding of audiences. I learned that no matter what you do, some people in the audience will not like you or your topic. It doesn’t matter what your intent, or the makeup of the group.
You can’t change this fact. Someone in the audience may be thinking (fill in the blank with those characteristics that might apply to you:
“I don’t like this speaker because:
“He’s a man / She’s a woman”
“He’s white / She’s black / He’s Asian / She’s from the Middle East”
“He’s too short / She’s too tall”
“He’s ugly / She’s too pretty”
“He’s got all his hair / She’s a blonde”
The list is endless. Pick any stupid reason and somebody out there may be thinking it.
Who’s Problem Is It?
I’m assuming you want to be a speaker who provides benefit to the majority of your audience. If that’s true, never forget this:
If someone in the audience doesn’t like you, it’s that person’s problem, not yours!
You’re just not the right speaker for that individual. Don’t let that person affect the impact you could have on the rest of the audience.
If you take nothing else from this post, remember the following piece of wisdom. It’s from my coach, Craig Valentine, who passed it on to me a couple of years ago:
No matter what you do, you’re always going to be TOO something for somebody.
There is one part of your presentation you’ll never be able to control — the pre-conceived notions and prejudices of your audience. Let go of any need you may have to change them.
Focus on the benefits of your message. Challenge your audience to a new way of thinking, feeling or acting. The majority of the people who hear you will walk away better for the experience.
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