September 18, 2007

Do you insult your audience?

Sometimes, as speakers, we want to show everyone how clever and witty we are. We want to make the audience laugh and we don't think our humor through first. Or we ask something of the audience members that makes them uncomfortable.

One of the worst things you can do is insult your audience, either by attempting to make yourself look smarter than everyone else, or by putting someone on the spot and making her or him feel stupid.

Be very careful, when planning your activities and interaction, that you are aware of how they might be perceived.

Adults have sensitive egos and people spend a lot of time trying to avoid embarrassment. In fact, they will go to great lengths to avoid trying something new, speaking up, taking risks - just in case someone might think they look silly.

Make sure that your activities are low-risk or involve small group discussion before asking people to engage in higher-risk or higher-trust activities. Treat your audience with respect, sensitivity and without judgment, and use positive reinforcement to encourage participation.

You want to encourage learning, open minds and engagement. Embarrassing or insulting the audience will only shut them down and create a barrier that you will not be able to crack.

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