Did we even hear the same presentation, or read the same book, at all?
You know the confusing feeling. You’ve heard a presentation, or read a book, or seen a movie or tv show, and you say one thing about it, and the other person did.not.get.that.at.all. Their reaction was totally different.
Well, I’ve got a news flash for you. You did not hear the same presentation, or see the same tv show…
Oh, of course, it was the same presentation, or the same tv show — but in reality you are two totally different audience members. What you are wrestling with right now is different from that other person. You received the book, speech, presentation, show differently because you are different people.
These thoughts are prompted partly by the seemingly everywhere-present criticism of last Sunday’s The Newsroom episode, dealing with issues of campus rape allegations. Aaron Sorkin even issued a statement of response and clarification. (Read it here). I loved the episode. But, apparently, not everyone did. You wonder, at times, were we even watching the same show? (If we had time for a nuanced conversation, I would tell you why I thought it was a great episode).
When I present a business book synopsis, I include a few pages of excerpts and quotes directly from the book on my handouts. I read many of these aloud during the actual presentations; many, but not all. When I have an extended time for my presentation, I will read from these quotes, and then ask the participants to turn to one another and share the excerpt that they found most valuable, and why they found it valuable and useful.
Some of these folks actually choose an excerpt I did not even read aloud myself. How dare they not focus on what I wanted them to focus on?!
Here’s why they dare. They are a different audience member than I am, and they focus on what grabs them – even if I had skipped over it. (It is one reason why my handouts have more content than what I can include in my verbal presentation).
Here’s what I think. It is totally okay that this happens. It is natural; even wonderful. It is a good thing.
I like to hear presentations. But there are times when I hear one (this especially happens when I listen to a sermon at church) when a statement sends me off on a pretty private and personal journey within myself. I may miss the next few paragraphs from the speaker – but who cares? So what? I’ve had a great and valuable and useful moment of introspection and discovery.
In fact, when I present a specific book synopsis more than once, it is common for me to “shift” on what I emphasize, based on new thoughts, or changing circumstances.
So no, in fact, we did not hear the exact same presentation, or see the exact same tv show. We hear it through our ears, and our hearts, and see it through our eyes, in the midst of the circumstances of the moment.
And that is totally okay.
(And, as a speaker, this should remind us that we have little control over the reactions of our audience. They are in charge of that!).