Who is Really Sitting Right In Front of You?
My juries are always extremely diverse and come in all colors, shapes and sizes. You never know who is sitting in the jury box judging the evidence, witnesses and your client. A jury’s political affiliations run the range from liberal to conservative and your guess is as good as mine as to the individual religious beliefs and biases the 12 people in my jury box each have.
Although you may not be sharing your next presentation in a court of law, I have a strong hunch that your audience is made up of the same rainbow of people that I’m honored to try my cases in front of year after year here in Orange County, California. If you want to connect, build rapport, and even avoid alienating your next audience, it’s important you find your “otherness” (watch the video below) and understand the following.
Different People, Beliefs and Values
The reality of presenting and speaking in today’s society is that our audiences are made up of different people, with different beliefs and from different walks of life. Just like you are a product of how you were raised, your environment, your culture and your beliefs (your “otherness”), so is everyone in your audience. The earlier and better you understand and embrace this dynamic, the better you’ll be able to communicate your message.
Whether we’re presenting in a boardroom, stage or engaging others online via a post on LinkedIn or Medium, it’s important to remember who your audience is. It’s equally important to remember to share your message in a way that is considerate and audience focused and embraces our differences while also always being considerate to all concerned. I say this because you just never know who is watching, listening and judging you.
To keep things simple, I’m going to refer to all of the factors that lead to diversity (age, gender, race, politics, religion, life experiences, biases, beliefs…) equally as the “differences” we all have and share. All carry a unique level of importance depending on the individual.
Keep Things Simple
One of the first things to remember when dealing with “different” people (and we all are) is to keep things simple. Use short and well-understood words rather than unnecessarily long professional or industry specific terminology. Also make sure to break your presentation down into easy to digest topics. This single approach will help avoid misunderstandings and confusion while also allowing you to connect with your audience regardless of the language, educational and cultural differences. Using universal and well understood ideas and examples will also allow you to avoid inadvertently exclude a particular person from the conversation or offend a group of people because of an inappropriate comment or joke.
Looking at this dynamic from a different perspective, you can sometimes embrace the “differences” and build rapport by changing your language, using slang and if authentic, allow your accent to emerge to highlight your words. Although sometimes effective, this approach can be risky to invoke so be careful if you go down this path. The key to effectively doing this is to be real and genuine. Don’t try to do this if you have to fake it.
Empathize with Your Audience and Learn Their Value System
It’s important for your audience to know that you care about them. Understanding, and projecting yourself into the hearts of your audience is appreciated by all. Members in your audience, regardless of their “differences” will always appreciate your empathy. Unlike sympathy that involves feeling bad for someone but not knowing what they’re feeling, empathy connects all of us in this crazy world. In other words, sympathy is about you, while empathy is about them. When you speak or present, remember it’s always about them.
Before your next presentation, do some research and find out who is going to be in your audience. Figure out what unique characteristics exists with the different people you’ll be speaking to. Try to process what you learn so that you can communicate more effectively by understanding and appreciating what everyone in your audience thinks and believes.
What are the beliefs and values that different people in your audience carry into the room? Being aware of all the possible answers to this question will allow you to craft your presentation so that it’s effective both in delivery and content. It also allows you to avoid saying the wrong thing, reducing the chances of you connecting with your audience or decision makers.
Caring about your audience, being considerate, and making an effort will always help your cause. Conducting yourself in a way that allows your audience to understand that you truly do appreciate their unique needs or circumstances will help you develop rapport and bond.
Learn the Culture and Norms
When speaking to a unique group of people or to a group of people at a venue outside of the country, learn the culture, terminology and appropriate norms. For example, the sport of “football” (soccer) is different in most other parts of the world than here in the United States. A typical “thumbs up” shared in Thailand may possibly be interpreted as sticking your tongue out at audience. Giving the two finger peace sign in Great Britain and Australia is the equivalent to many of giving someone the middle finger. All it takes is a bit of effort and research to avoid making mistakes.
Being aware of your audience’s diversity and what you say and how you say it will go a long ways towards connecting, building trust and rapport with your audience.
Smart presenters welcome diversity and cultural differences and embrace the opportunity to share their message in a new and unique way. When speaking with an obviously diverse audience, embrace the “otherness” and appropriately include a bit of their language and culture into your presentation. Your audience will appreciate the effort and you’ll deliver a better message.
Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing myself (TED Global)
Mitch Jackson is an award winning California Trial Lawyer and in 2013 was named one of California’s Litigation Lawyers of the Year. In 2009 he was also recognized as one of Orange County’s Trial Lawyers of the Year. When he’s not in court trying cases, Mitch enjoys showing professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs how to use social media and live streaming to disrupt, hack and improve their professional relationships, businesses and practices. Connect with Mitch on Twitter @MitchJackson and at his law firm JacksonandWilson.com. His daily live streams (video) are shared at Streaming. Lawyer and his popular weekly talk show is TheShow.live