What does your audience want and need?
It was the Humor Conference. The speaker
was a well known humor writer. He was scheduled to deliver a 45 minute
presentation about writing humor. At least that’s what the program guide
stated. I attended this workshop because
I wanted to learn HOW to write funnier stories.
Anyone who registers for a Humor Conference
is already convinced of the need to use humor in their work. The attendees at
this conference included teachers, health care workers, consultants, writers,
trainers and even business managers. I don’t recall meeting any bankers or
government bureaucrats. Several people had a generous supply of red noses to
share with new acquaintances.
The humor writer started his presentation
by addressing the question about “why humor was important”.
These thoughts went through my mind. Yeah,
we get it. That’s why we’re here. Please move on to explain the techniques
about HOW to write humor.
While he continued to speak about the WHY I
perused the handout materials and it looked like good tips about the HOW were
At 20 minutes into his presentation I lost
my patience at listening to the WHY of humor and raised my hand. When he acknowledged
me, I stood up and suggested that we were there because we already embraced the
WHY. We really wanted the HOW and I was concerned that he might not have enough
time to adequately cover the techniques indicated in his program materials. Please
skip to the HOW portion of the presentation so we won’t miss out.
Clearly this presenter was unwilling or
unable to adapt because he failed to address my question and request. He simply
carried on with his (poorly) planned presentation which included another 10
minutes talking about the WHY.
When the time was up - much to his apparent
surprise - there were still a few pages of tips to cover and he cut his
I left that presentation feeling cheated
because I didn’t hear what I really wanted. In addition when I expressed my
feelings to the presenter he ignored me and my message.
I understand that he was a writer – not a
presenter. Many writers are asked to speak because of their profound writing,
but what some conference organizers don’t realize is that writing and speaking
are related but two very different skill sets.
There are three key points to this post:
Understand and address the real needs and
wants of your audience.
Be prepared to adapt if your audience
indicates that you need to change tactics. (He didn’t need to accept my
opinion. He could have polled the audience about their interest.)
Just because a person is an expert on their
topic doesn’t mean that they can present it well.
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