Being a speaker under 30 sucks.
Actually, not really. I love my job. You couldn’t pay me NOT to do it.
But picture this: you’re about to walk on stage to address hundreds – sometimes thousands – of seasoned business professionals who are twice your age, have three times your knowledge and four times your experience. Every one of them watches you with skeptical eyes and crossed arms as if to say, ‘What?! This kid’s young enough to be my son! What the hell is HE gonna teach ME?’
Yikes. Talk about stage fright.
In this situation, what you’re faced with is called Immediate Audience Preoccupation. In other words, the answer to this question: ‘What skepticisms are running through the minds of my audience members before I open my mouth?’
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to disarm it.
Now, this isn’t just about speeches. This applies to any form of interpersonal communication: conversations, sales presentations, interviews, dates and the like. The following list offers five strategies to disarm immediate audience preoccupation so you can win over skeptical clients and prospects.
My conversation partner’s arms are crossed. He’s questioning my credibility. He’s just waiting for me to prove to him that I’m not the right person for the job.
Tell the truth, tell it all, and tell it now. People will appreciate your honesty, especially when you offer it immediately. What’s more, you will validate the credibility of everything you say thereafter.
PERFECT EXAMPLE: Think Peter from Office Space.
Provide Social Proof
My price is too high. They’re never going to buy. My fee is WAY out of their budget.
Consider sharing testimonials from past clients who have paid the full amount and received outstanding ROI as a result. Instill confidence via social proof that working with you will be worth it.
PERFECT EXAMPLE: Think about the (real) families being interviewed on home security commercials.
You’re Young Enough to be My Kid!
I’m just out of college. Everyone I work with is twice my age. My clients are going to think I’m just some kid.
“A chicken ain’t nuthin’ but a bird,” my Dad always says. Likewise, age is nothing but a number. You’re only as old as you act. Remember, you are a professional. Project maturity. And show (don’t tell) others your accomplishments which have enabled you to achieve success. When they see that you know what you’re doing, they won’t care how old (or young) you are.
PERFECT EXAMPLE: Tiger Woods. I think he won his first major at…um…21?
Do Your Research
This isn’t my industry. This person or audience is completely different than me. I’m clueless about the way they do business.
Google everything. Interview similar people and ask the question, ‘What’s the one thing I could say to someone in your position that would totally piss them off?’ Then say the opposite. Oh, and don’t forget to share your research EARLY. Make people think, ‘Wow, she did her homework!’
PERFECT EXAMPLE: Any Major League Pitcher Before the Big Game.
It’s Not the Years, It’s the Mileage
I’m new to the industry. I’ve only been working here a few months. I’m the most recent hire in the entire company.
So what. When he was new to the business, Tony Robbins would give three speeches a day for years so he could exponentially increase his speaking ability. My suggestion: take inventory of your experiences and figure out what unique lessons you’ve learned and why those lessons benefit your clients. It’s like Og Mandino said, “Multiply your value.” Remember, people don’t care what you’ve done, they care what you’ve learned.
PERFECT EXAMPLE: Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.
Look. Every audience (one-to-one, one-to-many) has some form of immediate preoccupation. If you want to communicate effectively and project approachability – on stage, in a meeting or even on a date – your duty is to make your audience feel comfortable and confident by disarming that preoccupation as soon as possible.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What is the most common audience preoccupation you face?