Don't Announce Why People Shouldn't Listen To You
You do yourself and your audience a disservice when you preface your talk with why we shouldn’t listen.
Everyone knows that when thy go to a conference or a meetup there will be some talks that rock your socks. There will be other talks that are generally boring with a few islands of interest. You potentially maroon yourself to one of these islands when you put yourself down or come up with reasons why people shouldn’t listen to your talk. Maybe you’ve heard or said some of these.
The talk, no matter what time of day you give it, will always be right next to something. “I know it’s early and everyone’s coffee hasn’t kicked in, so I’ll try to make this interesting.” It already sounds like a stretch, right?
“We have one more hour until lunch. I’ll go through this quickly, and maybe we’ll get out early.” You have just helped everyone look forward to the moment of relief when your talk will be over.
“That lunch o meat was great, right? Hopefully I can keep you from taking a nap.” If your talk is that interesting to you, it’ll be that interesting to your audience. “Wow, too bad they gave me the last time slot of the day. I’ll get through this so we can go hit the town.” Orrrr, we can just skip this and be free now.
“There’s that other awesome speaker talking right now. I’m glad you came to my talk.” Likely a very sincere statement of gratitude, you’re still creating doubt in the minds of your listeners who have already made their choice to be there with you. Make it seem like they made the right choice, no question.
No matter what your topic, your audience will probably always be broad enough that you’re not hitting a home run with everyone. “I know this is complicated and hard to understand. I’ll go slower.” For some, this will mean they’re dumb. For others, this will create an unneeded artificial mental barrier that they can’t learn what you’re saying.
“I know this is taking a while to get through.” Some subject that you’re laying out will take a while to get through. Ok, fine. But now I’m looking at my watch. “I know this can be boring.” A lot of things can be – now I think this is.
“I know this has been a long day.” If it was, and you’re feeling it, it’s true that your audience probably is as well. Use your talk to help them forget about that for a while.
There will always be someone smarter than you, probably right in the audience. You can work hard to make sure you don’t sabotage the worthiness of your content for your listeners. “I was just in my hotel room finishing theses slides.” Now I’m wondering if everything you say is just made up on the spot without much thought.
“I know I’m not an expert in this…” Who’s an expert, anyway? Now I’m doubting you are. Just share what you do know. If something is just your opinion, state it as such, but dont’ downplay it.
I know I’ve said some of these. It’s really quite easy to do. It’s usually just a case of the nerves. We get up in front of a group where we’re a bit out of our element, and we say and do things that are just silly and do not help us advance the tenents of our talk.
I did this just the other day when I asked a friend who was stepping out of my talk where he was going. Lol, what was I thinking? It was a distraction from my subject and pretty ironic considering what I was talking about – encouraging autonomy. :)
Keep your nerves, be confident, make full preparations, and you’ll let fewer of these unhelpful phrases come out of your mouth.
What are some of the hilarious or unhelpful things you’ve said during a talk that you’re never going to say again? :)