I meet a lot of people every week… I facilitate different types of groups with different types of people. I think life would be extremely boring if we were all alike. I think I’d really hate to have everybody like me. Don’t get it twisted, I really like me and my uniqueness. I would honestly hate seeing another me and losing out on celebrating my uniqueness. If you’re also going to be honest, I think you’d share the same sentiments. AND, because you really know yourself, there may be other reasons why you wouldn’t want other yous… Anyway…
I was reflecting about a group of people I facilitated. As they introduced themselves their diversity became apparent. Besides the fact that they were of different ethnicities, experiences and backgrounds, their personalities and expressions of who they were, were also different. We know this, but it is not always at the fore of our thinking i.e. the differences of people in the crowd or audience. We may share common interests but none of us are common! As a communicator, never, never forget that your audience or target audience are a collection of unique individuals.
One of the implications of this is that you remember to ride off more common experiences than to a personal experience that not everyone may relate to. It may mean making reference to a new ad on tv or billboard etc… Whatever you do as you communicate, remember to find as many things that most people will be able to relate to. Your (potential) audience will tell you how to prepare. Do your best to know as much about your audience prior to your speaking engagement as possible…
For instance, when in the rainbow nation, South Africa, one also needs to be careful how you “season” your communication with words from another language. There are many instances where the same word means a completely different thing from one language to another… Hence the importance of being watchful to find the middle ground.
Another thing I had to remind myself of, was that not everybody responds the way I do. I was reminded of days I’d get frustrated with my audience or group I was facilitating because they just weren’t responding the way “they were supposed to”. Not everybody assimilates things the same and the fact that they are not responding to us or our communication the way we’d rather have them doesn’t mean they are not getting you. It may simply mean that they don’t respond the way you do. I’ve had people that I thought were totally “out of it” be the ones to come and share about what they learnt from a talk and how they envisage the impact in their lives.
Don’t beat yourself up and diminish the (potential) impact of your presentation by judging based on how you are likely to respond! Engage your audience not yourself! People are not going to respond to you the way you respond because you are the one communicating. Get comfortable with the fact that not everybody will think you or your jokes are funny. We are all wired differently and don’t have the same sense of humor (if any). The primary goal of your communication is not the response as you communicate but that your message gets across in a palatable and concise manner.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that reading your crowd’s response is not important so that you can adjust accordingly. What I am saying is don’t get too hung up on it. Sometimes our perceptions based on response of the crowd are inaccurate. Make sure you engage your audience to enable your communication, but do not sum up your effectiveness based on how you would respond. Keep in mind your audience is not you and, chances are they are not exactly like that last group you addressed at an earlier setting either. Be happy with responses even if they are not how you would respond (hoping they are positive ones). Remember, we may have common interests but we are all not common!