It Cannot Get Any Worse Than This

A couple of decades ago, I had just moved to New York City. And it was frankly very poor. I had invited to give a speech at a political organization, a political club.  It happened to be the same political party I was a part of. It happened to be the same political party that the president United States belonged to. At the time I was also doing political commentary, talking about politics. A great deal! I thought this will be great way to introduce myself to the new city.  I would only have been here for a couple of months. I brought my video camera to demonstrate everything. So I went gave this speech and I noticed right the beginning of lots of stony faces. Then I was saying more and more positive things about the incumbent president who was in the party, that the members of this club were devoted to and people were looking angry. I am starting to make fun of the incumbent president’s political opponents, thinking well that will get them on my side. They just got angrier.  After a while they practically booed me off the stage. Some lady came up to me afterwards. Young man said, “how long have you been here and why do you think we want to hear from someone like you?”  That is like just a disaster. No applause, not even a thank you and just people kind of walking off.

So what happened?  Well it just so happened that every community can be a little different. New York City especially Manhattan is different from any other place in the United States. I had been living in Florida, North Carolina, the rest of my life and I did not know that much about Manhattan. And in Manhattan the politics are much more skewed. So you do find people on more extreme. So even though I was speaking to a political club of a certain party. They did not like that income president because they did not think he was pure enough to their ideal. So they only wanted to hear someone who was going to bash an attack the president of their own party. He happened to be someone I liked.

So and by the way I am not trying to be cute. I am not mentioning the partying the person because what I have found is the second you do that.  Everyone looks at you through a different lens. If they like that politician, then they like you but have did not like that politician. They will end up hating me. So that is why being a little bit vague. Even though I do not generally recommend that when telling stories. So I walked away from that totally dejected and I remember at the time, it was April 1st 1996 I had just moved to town a few months earlier. They practically spat on me. It was that bad.  So I am walking away carrying my video camera, my little briefcase.  I am slumbering away walking across town because I could not even afford bus fare, cab fare home. I was that kind of down and out. I am figuring it cannot get any worse than this.

I am walking, all of a sudden I look up, it starts snowing on me, in April. I am now freezing to have no gloves. I do not have an overcoat on. I am carrying my stuff and I am thinking, “Wow I never should have moved away from Florida.” That was definitely one of my worst speaking days ever but you know what you learn from that or you go home and quit. I obviously did not go home and quit. I did not do enough due diligence. I should have gotten there earlier, really talked to people, found out who they liked who they respected. What they thought of the current political environment what they thought of the incumbent president.

So that was my fault. I did not do enough due diligence. I just made assumptions about the audience. Never a good thing to do. So why do I tell that story.  Pretty obvious I just want people to do more research on their audience before they give presentations. So they are not surprised by a negative reaction from the audience. Because they misjudged the audience. You cannot do it perfectly.  Every time but you can get there early ask questions that will allow you to tweak your message in a way that may resonate what I am not suggesting you.  Just tell any audience what they want to hear but certainly if you know certain subjects are going to scare away people or distract them or make them hate you if you want to go in another direction.

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