When giving a talk, mind your audience

By | December 1, 2015

When giving a talk, mind your audience - Scot Newbury

Has this ever happened to you?

You hear that at the upcoming meeting there’s going to be a speaker and looking at what’s printed in the Trestleboard you see that the topic is one of interest to you. So you make plans to attend and settle in for what you hope is something that you will both enjoy and take something away from.

The speaker begins well, “Brethren, thank you for having me hear this evening. Tonight I want to speak to you about . . . .” What follows however is a series of connected ideas, thoughts, facts, and quotes, that at the end leave you wondering what was covered and thinking back on it you can’t remember anything that seemed important to you.

I’d like to say that I’ve never personally encountered this but unfortunately I have on an occasion or two, including being on the presenter side.

What this comes down to is a lack of understanding of what your audience already knows and in some respects what they’re capable of understanding in the time frame you have. So often, when given the opportunity to present on a topic we know and love we forget that others may not hold the same enthusiasm or depth of knowledge.

You may have read every inch of Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma and know it like the back of your hand, but that doesn’t mean everyone else in the room does.

You may have spent time studying the possible connections between what is taught in our rituals and alchemy, but some in the room may not know the first thing about the latter.

It’s okay that they don’t, but when you’re the speaker it is up to you to know that and be able to provide a basis in your talk so that those that are listening to you can understand.

To help with this I would recommend what I call the sandwich method. It’s something that as a content developer we often build into our courses. In simple terms, tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and finally, tell them what you told them.

The trick is when you build this out you need to add in the supporting materials.

If you’re going to discuss a particular rite or ritual passage, be sure everyone is familiar with it and if not, be ready to fill that gap in.

If you’re going to be using a passage or two from a particular resource, make copies of it and make them available for others so they can follow along if they need to (be sure to give proper credit to the source).

Don’t forget to find out if you will be presenting during a tiled Lodge meeting and if so, what degree you’ll be on. It would be a shame to show up with a topic that would require Brothers to retire from the room as the topic isn’t appropriate or that your talk is cancelled entirely as it is a Ladies’ Night at Lodge.

So I ask that you please, think about who will be attending the talk you are preparing and if you’re unsure, ASK. It’s a simple thing but often overlooked and it helps you to provide what the Brethren are looking for and for you to provide it.

Have you given a talk in Lodge or attended one recently? What was your experience?