Greetings from Perth, Western Australia. The state that is bigger than Texas … way bigger; in fact, four and a half times bigger than Texas.
I mentioned that fact in an after-dinner speech I gave a few years ago to something like 700 of Western Australia’s top farmers. I talked to them as ‘Rush Nelson’ – ostensibly a Texas rancher. They didn’t know that the laid-back Texan accent being put across belonged to a bloke whose day-to-day accent was straight-down-the-line dinky-di Australian.
They got a hell of a shock when my true identity was exposed at the end. Why this very brief story?
The audience that night had a good time – lots of laughter, good-tempered banter and – among friends – at their ease. In spite of the fact I had to stay in character for nearly three quarters of an hour, they made the role-play easy.
But, just recently, I was part of an audience where the presenter managed to rub too many people up the wrong way. He was very good; knew his subject; had a confident delivery; a clear voice. But – and this is where you never know where your presentational effort can go wrong – he ‘put down’ a couple of questioners over the three hours he was with us. Out the front, you just don’t do that. The presenter was holding all the aces and we in the audience were thirsting for the material he was passing on to us. But … you could feel the room get its back up when the two people involved were made to feel just slightly stupid.
We know, from adult learning, that one of the reasons adults fear public-speaking so much is simply the fear that they will appear to be silly, or ignorant, or … (however you put it) a goose.
When you’re presenting, a put-down response or a brush-off or a degree of indifference to an audience member makes a negative impression. The audience remembers it and it ‘flavours’ the rest of the event just like a slight burning at the bottom of a saucepan spoils the stew.
Happily, the reverse is also true.
Audiences generally prefer to ‘like’ their presenter and respond accordingly. It makes any presentation easier.
So, to quote the great Sammy Davis Junior, when you’re out the front … ‘do nice!’
Well, that’s all for now. Until next time.
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