In one of my “Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking” classes, an attendee asked me why so many speakers come across as smug. I hadn’t really thought about this so I opened the discussion up to the rest of the class and was shocked by what I heard – many speakers come across as condescending, arrogant, cocky and yes, smug.
I listened to stories about people that call themselves corporate trainers taking the attitude that they were not only the smartest person in the room, but the only intelligent person in the room. Anyone that asked for clarification simply “didn’t get it.” Others shared tales of speakers confidently contradicting themselves or speakers arguing with audience members that questioned them.
I don’t know what motivates a speaker to act that way (and I certainly hope that I don’t act that way when I speak to groups), but I do see it from time to time. I’ve written a number of posts regarding bad advice on public speaking and it’s amazing how confidently someone will say “you only have five seconds to catch your audience’s attention” – it’s almost like they actually believe it.
My advice is to simply be nice to your audience and treat them with respect. Yes, as a speaker, you’re supposed to be the expert, but that doesn’t mean everyone else in the room is stupid. Audience members can be very sensitive and if you don’t treat them with respect, you’ll most certainly lose them within five seconds.
It boils down to the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. Even if you are the most knowledgeable expert in your field, others may have different perspectives, experiences or ideas that can enhance the experience for everyone in the room. Remember, it’s about the audience.