Public Speaking-Audience vs. Speaker (Kearney, NE)

 

Today was…weird. The stage was set, the lights were on, but it was…just…weird. Just before I spoke, my host “warned” me that this group is a lot more subdued than the group tomorrow. They are from smaller towns, so pulling the energy from them is like pulling teeth sometimes. This morning, they left me with only gums.

 

I really don’t know if I did well or not. I mean, I think I did, but they wouldn’t get “hot” and stay there. I had them for a second, then they went back to being quiet on me. Remembering the lessons from my previous article about remembering cultural differences, I didn’t expect them to be shouting and praising Jesus as I spoke, but at the same time, I was surprised that I wasn’t able to stir them up a little better than I did. If you’re seeing any commonalities in my posts, you should be noticing that I have some very distinct beliefs about audience interaction. I believe that #1-It’s never the audience’s fault if the talk sucks, but #2-The speaker can only go as far as the audience allows him/her to take them. So, the name of the game is to rev your audience up to get to the place where they WANT to be with you through the entire journey. That was my task this morning.

 

I began by making jokes about myself and they laughed really hard. Okay, I made jokes about what it’s like being black in Nebraska. They laughed almost like they could relate! Or maybe they just loved finally being able to laugh at a black jokes without feeling any guilt. Whatever the reason, I just knew I had ‘em.

 

The rest of the talk was good, but didn’t have the same response I anticipated. Speaking to all white, rural audiences is always a mixed bag. You never know what you’re going to get. I have to break down the “what does this black dude know about me” barrier, then the “is he an athlete or entertainer” barrier…then…I can get to the message. You can see it in their faces. They aren’t always sure how to receive me when the majority of their exposure to minorities has been on television or the smattering of folks of color in their town. It’s a challenge, but one I embrace at the same time. It’s actually fun, and truthfully, it becomes a learning experience on both sides.

 

TIP: If you are going to go far in your speaking career, it will require you to speak to audiences of all demographics. Don’t let this scare you. Every human being understands Love and they appreciate when you challenge them yet tell them the truth. Face your differences head on; don’t run from them. Approach your talk from the perspective of “I may not know everything about solving your problems, but what I DO know is…”

 

Before long, we warmed up to each other. These kids were absolutely great and by the end of the second talk, they saw me as an expert and a friend. Mission accomplished. One girl even referred to my keynote during the breakout session when she discussed the highlights of the conference. She said, “Just like Mr. Sparkles said in his speech this morning…” We all busted up laughing.

 

Hey, at least it proves she was paying attention. Ha, ha, ha.

 

 

Connection is key,

 

Jonathan

“The Connection Coach”

 

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4 Responses

  1. whoah. wait. you’re black?

    I’m with you 100% on being able to work and connect with all kinds of audiences. Some are home turf, some will be new, but all recognize caring, passion, and love.

    One of the funniest things about traveling around are the regional stereotypes I’ve developed. I don’t want to perpetuate it, but my experience tells me students in North Dakota will never be as loud as students in Birmingham. Nobody asks harder questions than Brooklyn.

    And I’ve never had anyone praise Jesus during a speech. Do you do coaching for that?

  2. oh come on i thought that it was great i may not have been cheering but that is cause i am not a vocal person or someone who likes to display emotion but either way i knew that everyone in my group loved your speech (it was 9 people so ya) by te way kinda off topic but i am an extemp speaker (the only one in my school) and i would love to get any public speaking advise you can tell someone who everyone says is extremely shy But anyways i thought….know you were great and i would love to have a chance to listen to you speak again

    Agian thank you for speaking to us and i hope, even if we werent the best group, that you enjoyed speaking to us

  3. Awesome stuff! I was recently at an education conference in Jackson, MS, which was the reverse of what you had. Here I was, white as can be, speaking to an entire room of black people. I was intimidated at first, but decided that they brought me in for a reason.

    Near the end of the talk, I asked if I could preach a little about suffering and God’s role in suffering people. (I had gotten clearance from the meeting planner beforehand.) Not only did they respond with an overwhelming, “Yes.” I was getting Amen’s and Preach On’s for the rest of the talk.

    Meeting planner was out of the room during the talk, but has since told me that the attendees were telling her it was the best talk they’d ever heard.

    Lesson? Sometimes, just ask the audience what they want to hear. If they had said no, I would have moved on. Instead, I knocked it out of the park without even planning to!

  4. Great great temperament!! .Congratulations for your effort and patience while writing.

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