Fooling Some Of The People, Some Of The Time – Or Not

Friday, August 16th, 2013 by Simon Morton

A couple of recent news stories have given us pause for thought here at Eyeful Towers. Firstly it seems a Chinese zoo has been replacing exotic animals with domestic ones and secondly a new species of mammal has just been ‘discovered’ despite an example living in Washington Zoo for a number of years.

While this may seem, at first, to have little relevance to presentations but these are both great examples of how an audience (and a number of experts) can be lead merrily along the garden path, and what happens when they realise.

Respecting your audience is key to bringing them around to your way of thinking. If you underestimate the effort needed to engage and retain them, you’ve already lost them.

So when is a lion not a lion? In this example the simple answer would be ‘when it’s a dog’.  It’s easy to look at this story and suspect that it’s ridiculous, but it wasn’t just the lion they replaced. The dog masquerading as a wolf could easily pass unnoticed (unless it was a miniature poodle) but dogs were also playing the part of leopards, while coypu (the largest of the guinea pig family) were labelled as snakes.

Which leads me to wonder just how long they really got away with it?

Audiences are not stupid, but as human beings we are usually reticent to contradict what we’ve been told by an ‘expert’. We’re likely to be suspicious and unbelieving but unlikely to do anything about it. We know something isn’t right but won’t speak out just in case we make fools of ourselves. So we quietly decide that the whole thing is rubbish and get on with our lives.

Your audience will react in exactly the same way if they believe you’re running fast and loose with facts and figures or if they start to question your integrity. If part of your presentation seems fudged it’s likely that your audience will ignore the whole thing – and you’ll never even know.

As for the mystery mammal now officially named the olinguito, it seems that the creature itself went a long way to pointing out the mistake by refusing to mate with the olingos it was housed with.

Unfortunately the experts who misidentified it weren’t taking any notice.

If you’re not taking any notice of your audience you’re unlikely to be able to communicate effectively with them.

Before you even begin to bring your presentation together you need to know your audience, who they are, what motivates them and why they should care about what you’re saying. And it doesn’t end there if you don’t pay attention to them while presenting you won’t know if they’re not engaged and therefore, you’ll be unable to react by adjusting your content and style to bring them back.

Fortunately we can help with both these problems without anyone having to study for a zoology degree. If you think you may have lost (or maybe never even found) your audience just give us a call.

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