The scales of justice have loomed large lately at Stratus Towers, yours truly having been called for Jury Service. Keen as mustard to do my civic duty I was looking forward to taking my place on the bench, fully prepared to listen intently to what was said by both sides. I was determined to come to judgement using only the facts presented in court and my observations of the participants – no personal bias or axe to grind.
And it struck me that audiences attending presentations or training workshops do something very similar. They decide on the credibility and knowledge of the speaker based on the facts of the topic, yet they are also swayed by the manner in which the presenter delivers their message – the body language and tone of voice.
Generally, audiences judge only on what is presented before them. Sadly though, many public speakers/trainers imagine that not only are their audiences their judge and jury … but also their executioners!
Under-confident or novice presenters scan their audiences nervously, telling themselves that each upturned face is not listening willingly (probable reality) but instead filled with scorn for a missing sentence, or joke that only the presenter knew was planned. Each tilt of a delegate’s head over a simple word stumble is interpreted as censure rather than empathy.
Whoa – less self-flagellation folks, let’s back up a bit here! In reality, most delegates rock up only in the hope of hearing something of benefit for them, perhaps something that will give them food for thought or even something that may mildly entertain them.
What they do not turn up to do is to pick holes in you, the presenter. Yes, they may feel more at ease with a presenter who feels at ease with themselves but audience members are not telepathic, they don’t know what you were intending to say – they only hear what you do say. And if your message resonates and is presented calmly and confidently, they will take it at face value even if you have made an occasional slip up.
Let me assure you that delegates are far too busy worrying about themselves: what their mates will think if they ask the ‘silly’ question; whether they’ve accidentally cc’d the boss into that risqué email earlier; or even whether they left the iron on, to be concentrating with a forensic level of intensity on you. It’s only if you semaphore unmistakeably that something has gone awry or flap around so frantically that they can’t miss the obvious, that they will begin to question your fitness to hold court.
So, let’s get a touch of perspective here. It’s not all about you as the presenter – it’s about you as the conduit of a message. If you prepare thoroughly, rehearse diligently, deliver (outwardly) confidently, just like the legal eagles in the courthouse … then I can promise you the only person acting as judge, jury and executioner will be you!
Postscript – sadly I didn’t get chosen for a case, so lost the chance to be a juror – let alone judge and executioner. My civic duty remains unfulfilled!