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,
“The Connection Coach”
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