A few weeks ago I was invited to a presentation in a worthy cause. The moment the presenter said she was a motivational speaker and coach, my heart sank!
Now I’m not against coaches and motivational speakers. Good heavens, no! My frustration is that I’ve come across too many who call themselves coaches because they want to do good in some vague way and get paid for it. They think it’s easy and there’s money in it. They’ve done a correspondence course and some exams. And then are surprised and complain when they are treated with reserve and caution by other business people.
Like a coach, my work involves a great deal of listening. Frankly after a day of work, I am exhausted at 6pm since listening well is a demanding discipline to commit to and you can never become too good at it. My performance is constantly under review because I care about quality. I’m not certain that this is true of many coaches.
The presenter’s topic was heartwarming and thought-provoking. She had prepared thoroughly and her message was resoundingly important. So why didn’t I get persuaded?
- Her posture. She stood on one foot with the other crossed over in front of her, head on one side. This posture reflected lack of self-confidence. It showed either uncertainty in her message, in herself, or in us. It undermined our confidence in her.
- She kept wringing her hands. New presenters comment they don’t know what to do with their hands. DO NOTHING unless there’s something to do.
- Her voice. It was light and often shrill from nerves. It grated. As an audience we instinctively tensed up which meant the message got lost.
- Charm. She tried to charm us by smiling archly to push us into a response. Many of us dug further into resistance as a result!
- Identity. She had no logo and no contact details. And although she referred to her website, there was no sign of it on any of her slides.
- Persuasion. There were one or two who showed they were interested by the questions they asked. She never outlined how they could be of help and the easy steps they could take.
- Prior to the presentation, I overheard her giving an opinion on something she knew little about. It was great that she was talking to her audience beforehand though should have been asking questions and gauging our concerns and issues instead.
- She rushed off after the presentation. Some people are reluctant when asked for questions during the presentation though will talk happily afterwards. Another opportunity missed.
- This is a curious point. I don’t think she realised that the most interesting part of her presentation came at the beginning. It was the subject of her fund-raising efforts. If she had focused on it we would be delighted to linger there to understand the environment and conditions she was raising money for. Disappointingly she chose to focus on a fund-raising attempt that was no doubt exciting though rather annoying – a bunch of comfortably off western white people doing worthy things.
- She seemed to be monitoring her own performance rather than paying attention to how we, her audience were responding.
This lady seemed to understand the concept of ‘audience engagement’ though she failed to engage because she wasn’t interested in us. She was far more interested in what we could do for her. So she failed to win us over. And thus failed to win our support, help and money.
A presentation will stand or fall on whether the presenter cares about their audience. And shows it. If they do that, we’ll respond. A presenter is inviting us by this introduction to a relationship with them of knowing, liking and ultimately, of trust.