Last week I wrote about physical barriers to a presentation -- actual objects that get in between the speaker and the audience and block connection. But there are other barriers that, although invisible, are just as damaging. I'm speaking of attitudes, beliefs and perceptions inside the speaker's mind.
Arrogance in a speaker generally manifests itself as superiority; thinking you're smarter, more competent, more skilled than the audience. This mindset can be a real temptation for the subject matter expert who, indeed, may have advanced knowledge and skill in his area.
Feeling arrogant can lead to numerous behaviors that are both unproductive and create a chasm between speaker and audience. The speaker:
- talks over the heads of the audience, not bothering to explain concepts or jargon
- doesn't prepare any stories or examples that would make the topic more relevant to the audience
- doesn't put any time or effort into preparation, particularly if he's given the presentation before
- doesn't accurately read audience reactions during the presentation
- doesn't hear the real questions that are being asked; instead she cuts people off and talks over them to further demonstrate her expertise
"Arrogance diminishes wisdom."
FEELING THE AUDIENCE WILL JUDGE YOU
This mindset has more in common with arrogance than you might think. Although seeming opposite, they are both closely related to insecurity. A speaker who views presentations as anxiety producing will likely number as one of his concerns being judged [unfavorably, harshly] by the audience. To somehow compensate for his feelings of inadequacy, the speaker:
- procrastinates preparing and practicing the presentation because of nervousness and anxiety
- is too focused on herself and her discomfort to read audience reactions
- doesn't invite questions, fearing he'll be unable to answer them
- disconnects from the audience, insisting that questions be held to the end [hoping there won't be time left] and discouraging any audience interaction
- is defensive when responding to any questions or comments, misreading an innocent inquiry as a challenge to her credibility
Assuming something about your audience without verifying can be borne out of either arrogance or carelessness. Sometimes we simply don't think about anyone's perspective but our own. Letting assumptions lead him down a perilous path, the speaker:
- assumes the audience feels the same way he does about the topic causing him to overlook a potential landmine
- suffers from the curse of knowledge, assuming the audience has a similar frame of reference and understanding of jargon
- doesn't anticipate questions and prepare for them, not thinking that the audience may see the topic from a different perspective
Perhaps surprisingly, the antidote to all of these speaker mindset barriers is pretty much the same...stop making it all about you and focus on the audience. Care about the audience and what value you are providing them; believe that they are on your side and are not waiting for you to trip up; recognize that the audience doesn't necessarily know what you know or see things the same way; if you embrace these shifts in your perspective...changes to your mindset...you will remove the invisible barriers and strengthen the connection between speaker and audience.