I was sitting in a conference room with a dozen strangers a couple of nights ago, waiting for a presentation to begin. One of the women in the audience told the speaker she’d seen another of his presentations and decided to come see him again.
Before he could react to what we all assumed was a compliment, she added:
“I don’t remember what you talked about then. Is this going to be the same presentation?”
I’m sure the questioner was just looking for information. But of course she wrapped her question in one of the most insulting things anyone can say to a speaker:
“I don’t remember what you talked about.”
To his credit, the presenter kept the smile frozen on his face. (Do not play poker with this man.)
I found his presentation both memorable and useful. But that woman’s statement has stayed with me, too.
It’s a reminder of what my clients pay me for: To make their ideas memorable.
And it’s a reminder of the challenge we face in this world multitasking: How do we break through the clutter of other claims on the audience’s attention (whether it’s email or Facebook under the table or, in this woman’s case, a take-out dinner on top of the table) to deliver a message that resonates?
The answer may be that sometimes we can’t. Someone who is determined not to hear you will always find a way to succeed. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.