Today was a monumental day in the life of the Hoffler family. My first Tee-ball game as a parent. Watching the wee one line it up to smack (dribble) it the first time was a moment I hope I never forget.The funny moments of the game are almost too numerous to count. Many of these kids have never played any organized sport, and most still have very little idea what the game of baseball is about. 2.5 practices doth not a team maketh. One kid slid into every base. Several headed to right field instead of second. Some threw it to the catcher regardless of base positions. Most did not connect with the ball very well.The communication nugget came from my lovely wife. Ever conscious of raising The Boy right, she made sure she told The Boy that if someone else was going to field the ball, to let them have it (we have tug o’ wars on a daily basis between the siblings, so this is a constant issue). The reaction was perhaps predictable. The Boy had several balls hit in his general direction. And he… didn’t move. Instead, he looked at the kid next to him, and waited for him to get it.It’s not that much different in the presentation world. We say things and wonder how they’ll be taken, then issue a caveat or disclaimer. And we cannot control the reaction from our audience. They take away what is meaningful to them. Therefore, it’s of paramount importance that we say clearly what we want acted upon, and don’t cloud it with other messages. A side point (don’t be a ball hog) can be detrimental to the central message (play the position).I saw an example of this in the corporate world just this week. An executive was admonishing his team to stay on task and to avoid unnecessary non-work content (internet/email). Then in the next paragraph he alerted them to something not related to work that he had provided to provide a diversion. More than one person confided to me that the message was mixed. If I don’t have time and am being watched in my internet usage, how is the reaction to a meaningless trip up the hall to engage in mindless activity to be judged? I know that wasn’t the intent of the message, but that’s what at least some received. Instead of opening communication doors, they were slammed shut on an innocuous comment.
The audience’s reaction is not under the presenter’s control. Speak carefully and emphasize wisely.