January 31, 2008

What do you have in common with your audience?

I gave a presentation last week to UCSB's Rape Prevention Education Program's peer educators, on presenting difficult topics to difficult audiences.

I especially enjoyed presenting to this group because I've been in their shoes and am particularly qualified to talk to them about this topic.

For six years I spoke to high school students on abusive relationships. I spoke in high school classrooms, continuation schools and juvenile justice facilities. There were plenty of ignorant, resistant and downright hostile audience members in those presentations, due to the uncomfortable and personal nature of the topic.

I could relate to the UCSB students' experiences with their audiences, which created an instant bond between us.

But this was not a unique occasion. I always try to find the commonalities between me and my audience. I love speaking to women's groups, knowing that we've shared many of the same experiences. Likewise, groups of entrepreneurs. I can find something in common with just about anyone!

There's always a way to connect with your audience through common experiences.

* If you're a politician, you might share how there was a time when you were suspicious of government.

* If you're a pastor, you might share how you've questioned your faith.

* If you're speaking about teen pregnancy prevention, you might share some of the myths you believed as a teenager.

How do you find commonalities with your audiences?

Yes, I'm still without a modem. :-( I'm getting to know all the wi-fi spots in town.

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

On occasion, I speak to teenagers serving sentences in youth prisons. I've never been incarcerated, so I don't have that in common with my audience. I did, however, grow up in in area that "has one of the largest concentrations of criminal gangs of any area in Canada." When I tell the youth where I'm from, I can see the change in their body language.

When I speak to students in schools, I tell them about the experiences I've had when it comes to failing subjects in school. They often approach me after to tell me I've encouraged them to keep trying.

Thanks for posting this topic.

John Watkis

Lisa Braithwaite said...

John, that's probably pretty surprising to them that there are even gangs in Canada at all!

I think the best thing about talking to teenagers is that we've all been one. Granted their world is a lot different from the world we grew up in, but the emotions we all experience dealing with school, relationships, parents, etc. are the same.

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