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January 2009

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MBC Director’s Memo 1.09

There’s a country song about a woman who called an old boyfriend a year after the breakup. She heard a voicemail message that ended “p.s., if this is Austin, I still love you.” Fortunately for the man, Austin was calling to rekindle the relationship. Her thought after hearing the message was, “What kind of man holds on that long? What kind of love that must be?”
Imagine the reaction if she had only been calling to find out where to send a few of his CD’s? “What kind of pathetic loser holds on that long? What kind of emotional basket-case that must be?”
Audience perspective can have a significant impact on how a message is received. It’s what draws the line between hopeless romantic and stalker, or medical pioneer and animal abuser.
After years of managing our personal relationships, we know that the particulars of a story, or excuse, are different when telling Mom than when explaining to Dad. Experience has taught us how to push the right buttons with each audience, and avoid the switches that will cause volatile reactions.
This is no less true for an organization, or even an employee. We all have a story to tell, but most audiences are more interested in their own agendas than in ours. That’s fine. Simply use this fact to your advantage.
Seriously consider the elements of your case from the perspective of each individual you are addressing, even if the audience numbers in thousands. You will certainly know, or be able to research, the fundamentals of the audience. Focus your presentations to highlight the issues that are of importance to the audience, but entwine each one with the outcome you are trying to persuade them to adopt.
Leverage the potential energy of the most heated emotions of your audience. Show each audience member how their particular concerns can be championed by supporting your initiative, or that they were right all along and should commend themselves for clear thinking. Add your hot buttons to the audiences’ switchboard by showing them you are in tune with their perspective.
Not an easy task for the people you are attempting to influence? I know a place to learn the techniques.