Last night during President Obama’s speech, Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina shouted “You lie!” in the middle of it. When I first heard about it, I kind of laughed to myself as I thought about how other countries have more spirited debates during these types of speeches. But then I thought a bit more about it and I felt that Rep. Wilson was, politics aside, both unprofessional and disrespectful. As I read the reactions later today, I started to believe that it was a bad idea for him to do that because his actions made him and his party look bad, and gave the other side ammunition and motivation that could change the momentum of the debate. But then as I sat down to write about it, I realized that Rep. Wilson’s outburst could only be described with one word: Brilliant.
Throughout the last six years, I’ve heard at least a dozen folks who are good speakers tell other people that they should never open their speech with “Thanks, it’s nice to be here” or some other cordial greeting. I’ve asked many of these folks why they feel so strongly about it and have yet to receive what I consider a satisfactory answer – a giveaway that I might have a myth on my hands.
Here are some of the answers I’ve received when asking why this is so bad:
- It weakens your speech.
- It bores the audience.
Of all the different types of hostile audiences out there, the disinterested or uninterested crowd can be one of the toughest to address. There are a number of reasons that your audience can fall into this category, such us being forced to attend the event, so we’ll look at what causes an audience to be disinterested and what you can do to bring them around.
What causes a disinterested audience:
A number of things can cause an audience to be soured about your presentation even before you reach the podium. They range from personal prejudices to attitudes related to the event itself. Here are some common reasons:
Today is a holiday for those of us in the US – Labor Day. As a kid, I used to have mixed feelings about Labor Day: on one hand, the weekend itself was always one of the most enjoyable of the summer but it’s also the last one of the summer. Even as an adult, I still see it as the last day of vacation despite the fact that I’m excited about the fall season, which is becoming my favorite season (I love all the activities in the fall, the temperature and I’m excited about all the events I have planned).