FILWP Presenting Tip #006: Consciously include (or unconsciously exclude)
FILWP PRESENTING TIP #006: CONSCIOUSLY INCLUDE (OR 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 Presenting Tip #006 will help you understand the possible negative impact you could have if you did that. It also 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.]
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 use language that excludes or even alienates some of your audience.
LET’S GET REAL
A speaker might, for example, tell the classic story of “As boys grow up, meet a girl, fall in love, marry and start a family…”
In that single sentence, they have excluded:
- gay, lesbian, transgender people
- everyone who has not fallen in love, or who fell in love but did not (and perhaps, do not want to) marry for whatever reason
- 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, a bigot or sexist.
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.
DETEST HAVING TO BE POLITICALLY CORRECT?
Thankfully, this has nothing to do with being politically correct.
It’s not even about preventing some of your audience getting hurt or offended.
It is all about making things easier for YOU as the presenter!
It’s about consciously doing what you need to do to include and engage as much of your audience as possible rather than alienate and exclude (lose) them. This will help you to land your message more effectively with everyone.
ITS NOT ABOUT ‘UPSETTING YOUR AUDIENCE
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. Like millions of others, I’ve had to learn to live with the general assumption that I’m straight, and mostly 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.
Those that you (inadvertently and unconsciously) exclude might not be upset by it. They will however register (even if unconsciously) that you’re not talking about or to them anymore.
When this happens, they’ll disengage to some degree. That energy will be lost to you and your presentation, until and if you win it back. You might lose them for a nano-second, for the duration of the talk, or forever (as future friends, audience members, clients, etc.)
Why would you risk that, when it is so easy a situation to remedy, and costs you nothing?
IT’LL LIKELY BE UNCONSCIOUS FOR THEM
As we’ve said before, you might not be consciously aware of excluding someone in the audience.
Similarly, they might also not consciously experience any animosity towards you or associate you with someone who (yet again) invalidates their world. [It is a fact that for most of those who aren’t mainstream (‘the other’) it is a daily occurrence to be excluded in general conversation, media, advertising, movies, etc. ]
Most of those who are different eventually get so used to it that they hardly notice it any more – consciously. (And that’s why it’s so refreshing to be in the audience of a speaker who is different, and who could be bothered to include everyone.)
Yet, if you exclude them, they would be less likely to feel warm or drawn to you. As far as your presentation goes, you’ve now lost someone who might have contributed energy and engagement towards the event. At worst they might even actively start swimming upstream by challenging you or suck energy from the event by not paying attention or being disruptive in other ways.
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.
And again, that is why it is so important for you to pay attention to this.
It is very simple – and costs you nothing – to use (even slightly) more conscious and aware language to include everyone.
You could, for example, simply change the above example to, “As boys grow up, fall in love with another boy or girl, and might decide to get married and even start a family…” or, “As straight boys grow up, fall in love with a girl, …”
Easy, respectful, open, inclusive, don’t you think? And it didn’t cost much, did it?
IT’S NOT ABOUT DENIAL OR BEING APOLOGETIC FOR BEING IN THE MAJORITY
You do not have to deny the fact that the majority of people on the planet are hetero-sexual.
You can simply display a conscious awareness that not everyone is the same (or like you).
That will make you very attractive as a speaker.
IT GOES BOTH WAYS
Just like the ‘other’ people in your audience might unconsciously disconnect from you and your presentation if you exclude them, the opposite is also true.
They are also likely to unconsciously connect and engage with you and your presentation if you include them.
That is, a gay person might not consciously notice that you have intentionally included them or think “Ah, they’re including me”. They are, however, likely to have an unconscious sense of wanting to connect with you and your presentation. This, in turn, helps them to be present, engaged and interested – which helps you to deliver an effective presentation.
As with most sensible suggestions, this can be taken too far.
Let’s say you are a man, doing a presentation for men on the topic of ‘Male Depression’, and some women choose to attend.
It would be smart to consciously include and welcome the women into the conversation as early as possible. You can do this by acknowledging them (look out for the tip on ‘Elephants’ in this tip series, 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.
That is, perhaps, the difference between common sense and being ‘politically correct’.
Common sense does not require for you to deny some facts (that most people are straight). It just asks that you include all facts (that other sexual orientations do exist.)
And still, in this particular example it won’t take much effort for you – 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…”
“What I found was that most men think – and for women this might be different – …”
This is a simple and respectful acknowledgement of the women in the room, whilst still staying on track with your intended audience and topic.
I mean, why wouldn’t you?!