Does Your Message Land as Intended?

Published on June 13, 2024

At the beginning of my speaking career, I was hired to give a keynote to 250 executives in Dallas, Texas.

Before the talk, I mingled with the audience to build relationships. I ran into this bigger-than-life-size individual, a man wearing the requisite cowboy hat. He had a great sense of humor, and I was impressed with his success.

Fast-forward now to the middle of my speech. All of a sudden, the same gentleman raised his hand and went in his Texas drawl, “Sir, I’m only getting three out of every 10 words you’re saying. Can you slow down, please?”

Now, I may not have done a good accent. But that question stopped me dead in my tracks. First, I was angry. How did I not do this? I know I speak fast, being from New York. But how could I have gotten so fast that an audience member didn’t understand what I was saying? I was angry at myself.

But then I thought, “Wait a second. This guy’s got a good sense of humor. His question made everybody in the room feel a little bit uncomfortable, because he was sharing what he did not like. Now, the rest of the audience was looking at me to see how I would handle it. Would I alienate him? Or would I bring everybody together?”

Out of nowhere came out these words, “Sir, don’t worry about the other seven words. They don’t mean anything.” The whole place cracked up.

Now look, I took a risk with that answer. The only reason I did it is because I knew he enjoyed humor and would find humor in it. But I also had to listen to what he was asking and slow down my rate of speech.

The key point is this: It doesn’t matter what you say in a presentation. What matters is what lands in the minds of the audience.

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