Presentation Tip #006: Consciously include rather than unconsciously exclude


As a speaker it is very easy to slip into the assumption that just because your audience looks or sounds like you, they are like you.  #FILWP Tip 006 is to help you understand the possible negative impact you could have if you did that, and suggests alternative, more effective ways to include and engage your audience.

As always, this is only if you’d like your message to land as effectively as possible with as many of your audience members as possible.

Oh of course, you know that there are gay/poor/single/angry/spiritual/religious people in the world too, even if you’re not one of them.  You might even have close friends ‘like them” or be married to ‘one’. 

It’s just that as a speaker, you might become unconscious of this, and in so doing exclude or even alienate some of your audience.


A speaker might, for example, say, “As boys grow up and fall in love with girls, and eventually get married and start a family, ..”

In that single sentence, they have excluded:

  • gay boys (and men),
  • those (gay, straight or in-between) who do not believe in or want to get married
  • those who would have liked to be married but for whatever reason, aren’t yet
  • couples who do not wish to or have been unable to have a family of their own

This does not make the speaker a bad person, homophobic, sexist, unconscious or a bigot. It just makes them someone who might have inadvertently lost some of their audience.

That’s why this is so important for YOU to understand and address this.


Thankfully, this has nothing to do with being politically correct.  Even though kindness and compassion seem to go a lot further than violence of any sort, this is not even about preventing some of your audience getting hurt or offended.

It is actually all about making things easier for YOU as the presenter!

It’s about doing what you need to do to include and engage as much of your audience as possible rather than alienate and exclude (lose) them – only if you want your message to land well with as much of your audience.

If it is your purpose to alienate and exclude your audience members, you probably already know how to do that and this tip series certainly won’t help you.


As a gay man living in a predominantly straight world, I have over time got used to being asked if I had a girl friend or a wife.  I’ve had to learn to live with the general assumption that I’m straight and mostly I don’t get hurt or upset by it. 

At the same time, I feel far from included in an audience when the speaker assumes that I’m straight.

Even if those that you have deftly excluded by your (and most likely, without you even being aware of it) aren’t upset by it, there will be a part of them that’ll recognise that you’re not talking about or to them anymore.  When this happens, they’ll disengage, and you’ll lose them.  You might only lose them for a nano-second, for the duration of the talk, or forever (as future friends, audience members, clients, etc.)


Just as you might not be consciously aware of excluding someone in the audience, they might also unconsciously associate you with someone who does not ‘speak their language’ or even acknowledge that their world exists, or is valid.

They would therefore be less likely to feel warm or drawn to reach out to you and as far as your presentation goes, you’ve lost someone who might have contributed energy and engagement towards the event. 

The best case scenario is that their energy is now lost to you, and the worst case is that they might actively start swimming upstream.  They could ‘act out’ their discomfort either by actively challenging you or by simply sucking energy from the event by not paying attention or being disruptive in other ways. 

Again, it’s important to understand that their behaviour is likely to originate from the unconscious dissonance they experience, even if they did not feel overly ‘upset’ by your lack of inclusion.

That’s why it’s so important that you pay attention to this.


It is very simple to use slightly more conscious and aware language that will include EVERYONE.  

You could, for example, simply change the above example to, “As boys grow up and fall in love with other boys or girls, and might decide to get married and even start a family, …”

Easy, respectful, open, inclusive, don’t you think?  That didn’t cost you much, did it?  You did not have to deny the fact that the majority of people on the planet are hetero-sexual, just simply acknowledge that not everyone is.

Mostly, it displays a conscious awareness in you that not everyone is the same or like you, and that is very attractive.


Just like the ‘other’ people in your audience might unconsciously disconnect from you and your presentation if you exclude them, they are also likely to consciously connect and engage with you and your presentation if you include them.

That is, even though a gay person might not consciously notice that you have intentionally included them or think “Ah, he’s just included me”, they are still likely to have an unconscious sense of wanting to connect with you and your presentation – which not only helps them but also helps you.


As with most sensible suggestions, this can be taken too far. 

If you are a man, doing a presentation for men on the topic of ‘Male Depression’, it might be that some women choose to attend.  In that case I suggest that you absolutely (and consciously) include and welcome them into the conversation as early as possible by acknowledging them (look out for the tip on ‘Elephants’, and no; this has nothing to do with women!)

After that it would be counterproductive to try and mould your every statement (that was, after all, prepared for a male audience) to include women.  On the other hand, it won’t take much effort – and might buy you a lot of goodwill – to occasionally make statements like, “And even though I do not know what that is like for women, here’s what it’s like for most men…” 

This is a simple and respectful acknowledgement of the women in the room, whilst still staying on track with your intended audience and topic.



Please post your comments, suggestions and feedback below; I’d love to hear from you.


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