If there is one thing I've learned over the years as a public speaker, it is to respect my audience.
People who come to hear you speak - especially those who pay to hear you speak or pay for access to a conference or event knowing you are a speaker - are taking a risk (I just learned this concept from Jill Foster aka @jillfoster of Live Your Talk). They are investing time, money and attention in hopes of getting insights, nuggets of information, guidance from people who are on a stage or placed in front of them as having valuable knowledge to impart.
But the concept of respecting your audience goes far beyond just public speaking.
As a consultant, as a businessperson, as anyone who puts themself in front of others with authority, you must first and foremost respect your audience to be effective and, above all, to be respected in return. Here are some of my quick thoughts on how we can better respect our audiences. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well.
1. Be prepared. Whether you are going to be on a stage or in front of business colleagues or clients, don't wait until minutes before the event to cram for the encounter. Start thinking about and preparing for the exchange days or weeks in advance.
2. Know your audience. You may know what you want to impart (or not), but a sure-fire way to show your audience you repect them is to have a sense of who they are and what they want. If you're speaking at an event, as the host of the event who they expect to attend. Even when you walk on stage or into a room, if you can, ask the audience some questions so you know a little more about them. If you can't ask them, assume they want good, solid information they can take home with them or back to work with them to improve on something they are doing.
3. Create value. Even if you're entertaining them, they want to walk away having learned something or experienced something they can talk about in positive ways. Strive to make sure that the investment of your audience is not wasted? Otherwise, get off the stage or walk out the door.
4. Make good. If you feel you've failed to produce value and demonstrate respect for your audience, make up for it. Look for ways to follow up or send additional information. You can make good on a promise.
And if you really screw up, own it and apologize. Maybe you had a bad day, maybe it was the jetlag, maybe you misunderstood the assignment. Ultimately, if you know you didn't respect your audience, an apology is appropriate and can sweeten up the bad taste in their mouths.