Are You a Speaker Who Pleases Everyone?
I was having breakfast with my friend, Tom. Although he’s not a professional speaker, he talks to audiences every week.
He said, “You know, Michael, in my position, not much bothers me when I speak. But, last week, I was talking to a group of high schoolers. This one kid fell asleep in the front row. I don’t know why, but it made me really mad. I was angry!
“Why do you think I got so mad?”
I said, “It’s happened to all of us. We’ve had one of those days where the only thing we notice is the person who is clearly not into what we’re saying. There could be 499 others in the room who are enthralled with what you’re saying. But, all you can think about is that one person who isn’t.”
Tom said, “I know, and it bugs me that I let it get to me.”
“Tom, we’ve all done it. And it’s OK to feel that way. The problem comes in when you focus on that person too much. You focus all your attention on getting that person to like you.
“We have to remember the other people in the room who are benefiting.
“A point that my coaches taught me is that we never know what’s happening in the lives of the audience.
“The kid who fell asleep may be sick. His parents may be divorcing. He might’ve stayed up all night cramming for a test.
“You’ll never know why, but the key is to not take it personally.”
The Hard Truth of Being a Speaker
I’ve been speaking for 23 years. Here’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned:
Some people in your audience are not going to like you.
It doesn’t matter how knowledgable you are.
It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about your subject.
It doesn’t matter how charismatic you are on stage.
Some people aren’t going to like you.
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 he was a child.
The list of reasons is endless.
A New Attitude Makes Me a More Impactful Speaker
Never forget this:
If they don’t like you, it’s THEIR problem, not yours!
Don’t just accept the fact that some people won’t like you, embrace it. Make it a game.
My friend Kay Fittes is a professional speaker. Years ago, we created a new goal – 10% of our evaluations should be negative, or at best, neutral.
We concluded that if at least 10% of the audience didn’t like us, we weren’t taking a strong enough stand. We weren’t committed strongly enough to our main message. 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. The people who liked us were getting a deeper, more impactful message. It resonated long after we spoke.
Want to be a speaker who leaves a wide, and long-lasting impact?
Accept the fact that some people will not like you. That’s the nature of this business.
These words of wisdom sum up the point of this post. They come from my coach, Craig Valentine.
Craig’s college professor addressed this issue of pleasing everyone. He said, “Craig, you’re always going too ‘something’ for some people. They’ll think you’re ‘too black’ or ‘too male’ or ‘too tall.’ 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.”
The next time you speak, don’t focus on the people who might not like you.
Be TOO good for it TO matter.
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