Presenting to Different Audiences

According to The Geek Leader’s Handbook, geeks find it very difficult to present information to non-geeks, all of whom they would call “business people” in the workplace.  In my own context, I present information at least twice per week in the form of a sermon, and I think I’m getting better at it, but I don’t think that I’ve ever really had trouble presenting to someone, so this concept is a bit difficult for me to identify with.

Why do geeks have trouble presenting information to non-geeks?  I think that it is a combination of several factors, first and foremost, the fear factor.

This chart baffles me.  In 2015, essentially today, for younger Americans aged 16-34, the fear that the most people had was other motorists driving dangerously.  That is understandable, I’ve been to Missouri.  The part that is cray to me is the next two, 75% of people surveyed were afraid of public speaking, and only 74% of people were afraid of death, followed closely by spiders and snakes.  More people were afraid of talking to a group of people than they were of DEATH!  Of course, this was a group of 16-34 year olds, so for most, death was probably not imminent, but still, to those people, talking was scarier than dying.  That is ridiculous, to me.

Keeping that in mind, I can try to empathize with those for whom speaking is worse than death.  There are times in my pastoral context when I’m not really sure what to say.  In one of my churches, we have about 25 people in the pews on a given Sunday, which do/have included white people, black people, old people, babies, Democrats, Republicans, lesbians, and straight people.  The question that I am constantly asking myself is, “How can I deliver this message so that everyone hears it.”  I, along with the book, think that it is important to tailor your message for your audience.  For me, this is about differentiating between listening and hearing.  Anyone can listen to information, leave, and forget everything.  It is another thing to hear information, to be able to connect with it and apply it in one’s own context.  I strive to make sure that everyone hears my sermons rather than just listens.  To do that, I have to embrace cultural differences, not only between different members of my congregation, but also between myself and the congregation.  This means saying things in different ways in order to better connect to your audience.  Tailoring that message so that everyone can hear rather than just listen is difficult, but it is a must.

One of the things that I think that I am strong at in presenting my messages is connecting on a personal, emotional level with people.  One of the things that I struggle with is putting things in such a way that everyone understands as they hear the message.  I would consider myself a theology geek, so I identify with those technical people who have a decent grasp on something, and so they use technical terms to try and explain something to someone.  I think that I have a somewhat decent grasp on basic theology, but not everyone in my congregation would understand if I started using words and phrases like “transubstantiation” or “Arminianism.”  This applies to anyone in any field, and I think that geeks have the most trouble with this.  Jim Harvey, in his article, says “If no advantage comes then the knowledge is redundant, and if the advantage is there, but the expert fails to explain it, then it’s even worse.”  You have to adapt your words and the way you present things to your audience.

If you can present things well, so that your audience really hears you and what you have to say, the power of persuasion is yours.  This can be used for good or for evil, of course, whether you’re a preacher or you’re a geek.  Sometimes, you may get through to your audience so well that you acquire magical powers, like this guy:

PS, PowerPoint is good too, just use it correctly.  I wasn’t sure how to fit this video into my blog, but it’s good joke material to have in your back pocket.


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