As I was saying in the previous post, if you’re a woman speaking to a predominantly female audience, don’t ignore the men who’ve come to listen to you. And, of course, if you’re a man addressing a predominantly male audience, be aware of the women present. Nobody likes to feel overlooked or of marginal importance.
A more subtle variation on this theme of including your whole audience is to remember that everyone is different. If two or three men in a sea of women – or vice versa – can be missed by a nervous or inexperienced speaker, what about the differences that don’t show?
At a magic convention a few years ago, a magician was explaining how this trick was a sure-fire winner because “everyone has a mom and everyone’s happy to celebrate her”. This is just not true, even in America.
In the same way, not everyone has a partner, children, a mortgage.
From the public speaking point of view, there are two aspects to be wary of. The first is that, especially in the realm of things our listeners might wish they had, or might feel they ‘ought’ to have, we have to be careful not to trigger any negative responses in them. Of the two magicians I was sitting with in the lecture just mentioned, one’s mother had recently died and the other had such a difficult relationship with his that ‘celebrating’ her was out of the question.
By rephrasing slightly – for example, by saying perhaps “a lot of people” or “most of my clients” instead of “everyone” – we can avoid giving the impression of ignoring anyone who doesn’t fall into the category we’re talking about. Anything to show it’s OK to be different.
The other aspect to this is, we need to make what we’re saying as relevant as possible to the whole audience. Assuming everyone watches Downton Abbey, for instance, probably will not actually offend people who don’t – or even those who haven’t got a television – but by making a reference to something in that programme, you risk non viewers missing your point.
In everyday chat, it’s easy to make all sorts of mistakes like this. One of the joys of public speaking is that we get to plan what we’re going to say and reap the benefit of thinking before we speak.