Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tough Audience

I’ve spoken to a wide variety of audiences in the past twenty plus years. The size of the group has varied from just a few to over a thousand and the setting has been just as different. In recent years it has been mostly adults, but there have been a large number of youth as well. There have been classroom settings, church congregations, youth groups, middle school camps, wedding and funeral attendees, conferences, and devotional thoughts. While I was always invited to speak (in one way or another) that doesn’t mean I was always well received. Some were eagerly open to what I had to say, some maintained tolerance (with a dash of indifference), and others were openly hostile, although that was rare. The receptivity of the crowd and the circumstances surrounding our communication would determine how tough the audience was.

If I was asked to identify the toughest audience I ever had to speak to, it wouldn’t be a difficult question to answer. It wouldn’t be a youth group or a disgruntled group of adults resistant to a message of change. The truth is that the toughest audience I’ve ever had to speak to is me. I know me far too well, think too cynically at times, and don’t always believe the positive things I tell myself. Even when I know what I have to say is good for me, I don’t always take it as well as I should.

A good speaker finds a way to connect with their listeners even through their resistance. You change your approach, use humor to loosen them up, and feel the tone of the room to discover if you’re making an impact. It’s interesting how changing things up is the best way for me to learn to listen to my own voice of reason.

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