Communicating with Your Audience

Try to answer the intent of the question. Think about where it’s coming from. Listen. Ask again.

Don’t over-intellectualize or pontificate. Stay down to earth. People usually respond much better to experience than to facts.

Being yourself is powerful. Be vulnerable and human. You really have nothing to lose. Be very honest when you answer them. And when you don’t answer, tell them why.

Treat every question with respect, no matter how it is asked or how dumb it might seem to you. If you are attacked (as in “Why don’t you form your own country and get out of here, since no one wants you here anyway?”), look for a reasonable, rational question to answer – one that’s within the context of the question asked. Stay calm.

Diffuse anger by refusing to participate. You are not there to prove anything – only to educate. Stay calm, continue to answer in a rational manner, and the other students will probably come around to your rescue. When that happens, you’ve really succeeded.

Remember that when one student is angry or hostile, you may very well not be able to reach them no matter what you say or do. (This is especially true for very emotional issues like religion.) How you handle the situation and what you say will, however, have an effect on the other students. Focus on them. Making your point is not what counts. Answering their questions is. Nothing  you want to say is even close to as important as what they want to know. You are not there to deal with  your  issues or diffuse your  hot  buttons.

Use humor to put people at ease, but NEVER to make fun of them or their opinions. Don’t use sarcasm or turn questions around to put them on the spot. NEVER make them look bad in front of their peers deliberately. Treat them as your  peers. The quickest way to lose any connection you have with your audience is to put them in an uncomfortable position or treat them as inferior beings who need  to hear what you  are saying.

Our goal is to break down stereotypes and barriers to understanding through education. Any issues you have that get in the way must be put aside. There are times and places to be militant or angry, but this is not one of them. Our continued acceptance in the classroom is based on our ability to meet our audiences where they are and leave them feeling good about who we are AND who they are.

Think about how you react to hate words. Don’t let the words obscure the real question. Instead, talk about how you feel about the word used, suggest an alternative, and then answer the question asked. Often people don’t know any other words for us.

next subject: Some Things to Remember

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