- Their applause was polite but definitely not enthusiastic.
- Their arms were folded - definitely closed to hearing my message
- The expressions on their faces were defiant
It was a tough crowd. They paid $75 per ticket to attend the awards banquet, not to hear me talk. And the memory of last year's speaker made them angry all over again. Fortunately, I had been warned that they may be less than welcoming.
I looked over the crowd, I floundered momentarily. What could I do to soften them enough to give me a chance? Suddenly, thought popped into my head "Take off your shoes!" I smiled at the audience and said, "My feet are really killing me. Do you mind if I take off my shoes?" I didn't wait for an answer. I slipped them off and set them in the corner of the stage while everyone watched in surprise.
The crowd immediately warmed up - this was unexpected! I mean, what kind of speaker admits that her feet hurt and gives her talk in her socks?
This one simple action changed the mood of the room. What other unexpected thing was I going to do? Now I had their attention so when I shared farm stories to illustrate key points, they were open, laughing, and enjoying themselves.
Adapting to the audience in the very beginning allowed me to be a big hit rather than a dismal flop. This was several years ago and I'm still in touch with a few of them regularly.
Adapting to the audience will sometimes require you to show your "human"side - the less than perfect person who they want to listen to, relate to, and do business with. Don't be afraid to show who you are as a person. Because in the end, people do business with people - not companies.
What's one thing you did to soften or warm up your audience?