Friday, July 30, 2010

The audience is never at fault!

In the days before Powerpoint there were transparencies and overhead projectors. The technology has changed but one thing has not: the audience is never wrong!

Something that has stuck with me over a lot of briefings from Generals to janitors is that if I as the briefer can not make the audience understand, it's not their fault. I recall being called on this point at an executive session when I responded to one of the seniors in the audience--who said my points were not clear--that "it's right there on the charts". Well, it was to me, but not to the executive. He made it clear: "Don't ever argue with the audience; it's not my fault that you are not persuasive; find another way to get you point across!". And, thankfully, I took the advice and I did make my point.

Afterall, the audience is the customer and they are the only ones who can make the value judgment on what you are saying. If the audience checks out, you may put it down to boredom, but often it is confusion.

Confusion--that is, a lack of understanding--is the quickest way to drive away a listener and completely defeat the value proposition of your presentation.

Even the guys at SesameStreet figured out the difference between confusion and boredom!

So, I say again: it's never the audience's fault!

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