July 25, 2012

I'm my own worst audience member



I went out of town to attend a two-day workshop over the weekend. There were a few snags along the way. During the six-hour drive I realized I had forgotten to pack underwear, so there was a side trip to an outlet mall (thank you, Calvin Klein, for the $15 coupon I was carrying in my purse).

Then I arrived and there were snags at check-in that took probably a half hour to resolve. And then I got to my room and realized I had forgotten to pack my phone charger. There were no current chargers in the hotel lost and found, so I had to resign myself to only being able to charge my phone in the car. Where I was not planning on spending a lot of time over the weekend.

If you know me even a little, you know my phone is my lifeline to Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, my husband, my friends and my life. How would I be able to go the whole weekend without being able to tell everybody everything I was doing? No photo uploads, no Twitter conversations. (Okay, I had my laptop in my room, but I had to wait until evening to access it.) Gah.

I arrived at the workshop flustered by the heat, distracted by my phone disability, and most of all, skeptical about the kind of training I would receive.

The workshop was free, meaning that there would be a pitch at some point (or, the nicer way to say it -- an "offer"). I wondered what percentage of pitch to content there would be, and I wondered if the content would be worth my drive, or if it was going to be a lot of fluff to fill the time in between pitches.

On the first day of the workshop, I sat with my arms crossed -- mentally. Mentally, I was scowling, thinking "Convince me that I should be here. Prove to me that this workshop is worth my time." It took me a good hour and a half to warm up to the speakers. The audience was full of rabid fans, which I found annoying, having never even heard of the speakers before a month ago.

And then I realized: I'm my own worst audience member.

Do you ever have those audience members who just look resistant? Maybe their arms really are crossed and maybe they really have a scowl on their faces. Of course, not everyone who looks like that is resistant -- see my post on that topic here. But some of them are, and that was me. And that is me.

Now, I'm not this way all the time. Sometimes I know the speaker and I expect to have a good time, based on previous experiences with this person. But I see so many speakers and attend so many presentations, webinars, teleseminars and so forth, that I've gotten skeptical. Because so many of them just want to sell, and they make no effort to connect with the audience. I've become "Hostage Harriet," except it's my choice to be in the room. Even if I'm not Hostage Harriet, I'm rarely "Passionate Paul."

How does understanding your own style as an audience member make you a better speaker?

As a speaker, I'm always aware that there are a lot of different kinds of people in the room, with a lot of preconceived notions, personal issues, distractions, knowledge, and different levels of interest and willingness to participate.

The more I can step into the shoes of my audience members, the better I can figure out how to reach them.

We all love the willing and participatory audience member. The one who sits, leaning forward, with eyes glowing, pen ready, and full attention on us. But this is a small percentage of the audience and we can't only speak to this person.

How are you like your worst and best audience members? How are you like the curious one, the resistant one, the distracted one, the hungry one, the shy one, the flighty one, the texting one, the hand-raising one and the sleepy one?

We've all been all of these audience members, or we will be someday. It's important to understand our own audience member behavior so we can relate to those in our own audiences.

And by the way, once I warmed up to the speakers and realized that they were warm, accessible, funny, authentic and delivering great content, I let down my guard. I participated, I listened and I learned. Mission accomplished!

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1 comments. Please add yours! :

iPad Mini Dock said...

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