THE MIDDLE FINGER
Todd Dewett | October 4, 2021
I am a huge fan of feedback, and not just when it’s formally delivered, via say an employee review or customer survey. I especially like proactive feedback-seeking behavior that results in informal feedback. Sure, it should be measured. Don’t avoid it and don’t spend all of your time chasing it. When used thoughtfully on occasion, it’s a beautiful fuel that drives improvement.
Be clear: you have to ask for it, it will probably hurt, but it’s worth it.
My favorite personal example involves one of my public faux pas…
I was on stage many years ago, ranting, telling stories, having fun. It was an audience comprised of employees from one organization. During the performance, I noticed a person in the audience who did not work for the company. I recognized him. Like me, he was a professional speaker, though more experienced and successful. I wasn’t sure why he was there, but I was intrigued. I made a note to speak with him after I was done.
The gig ended well, and I quickly walked up to the man before he could leave. I acknowledged that I appreciated his work and then asked if he was comfortable giving me feedback.
He hesitated and took a step back. Then, as people often do, he complied by offering a piece of feedback that was basically a compliment. He noted a particular story that he liked that he felt could be used even more effectively and gave me a couple of ideas.
I thanked him and then gave him permission to give me feedback for a second time. I asked him to be blunt. I went further and said, “If I could do one thing differently to improve how I deliver on stage, what might that be?”
He hesitated again and then spoke quietly. He explained that while I was on stage I move around a lot and sometimes feel the need to adjust my glasses when they slip a little. I could sense a truth bomb approaching.
He hesitated one final time and then said. “You always adjust your glasses with your right index finger. Except when holding the remote clicker for your slides. When you’re holding the clicker, it’s not your index finger you use.” He demonstrated what I was doing.
I was giving people the middle finger! I imagined myself running around the stage doing this over and over. I was so embarrassed.
He was kind to me and genuinely liked my presentation. However, he did feel compelled to end his comments by reiterating, “You really do need to stop using obscene gestures.”
I’m considered by many to be a world-class communicator. Yet I was bouncing around the stage – possibly for years – doing something I was unaware of that was terribly unproductive.
So, I ask you… What are you doing as a communicator that you are unaware of that is very unproductive? It might be the middle finger, or it might be any number of things. Believe me, it’s there to be discovered, but you’ll never know until you empower someone to tell you. Be brave. Ask.
I no longer use a remote clicker. I don’t even use slides. I certainly don’t give the audience the middle finger. Feedback is awesome.
WHAT’S UP WITH DR. D?
My standard answer applies – I’m writing things, just booked a gig, etc. These things are always true and fun to share, but this time I’d like to share something a bit more personal…
I’m feeling quite inspired lately by my wife Cheryl. As you might recall, she’s fighting stage four lung cancer. On top of chemotherapy, they’ve now added radiation. It’s working very well, and she sees a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.
Partially due to the pandemic and partially inspired by my wife, I’ve been cooking a lot more recently. Truth: I love cooking, but I’m not a great cook. I do find that the more time you invest, the better you become. Recent new wins include crab cakes, goat cheese stuffed chicken breasts, and a fairly authentic crawfish gumbo! It’s a creative act, a service outlet, and a stress reliever all wrapped into one activity.
It’s also worth noting that we are participating in Sober October! It’s a trend that started a few years ago that really caught on. Plenty of research suggests that people increased alcohol intake during the pandemic. If you’re like me, you probably need a month off!
I love to think about presentations. I’ve been a pro speaker and a presentation coach for others for many years. There is a lot of sound advice out there for you to consider. I’ve written about it before and have three courses for you to consider (https://bit.ly/3CqPqsr).
However, there are a few tips that are less common that I particularly like. Here are four great ones to remember.
Practice on your feet. When you make your presentation, will you be seated? If not, practice standing. You gain comfort standing and presenting….by standing and presenting! Standing sounds easy, but it’s not for most people when they must speak publicly. So, start practicing.
Put down the slides. I know that most people do this, but to make the practice work, stop holding them and reading them. No computer projections, no notes in your hands. Put that all away. This switches the focus from your slides to your brain. Do you want them listening to you or watching you read?
Use the actual venue. This is about comfort and familiarity. If you can practice in the actual space where you will deliver, do it. If not, find a place as similar as possible. Don’t practice in your office where you have a false sense of familiarity. Use the real thing or something like it.
Get an audience and feedback. Most people don’t practice. Most who do, practice alone. Stop that! Again, gain comfort by mimicking what will happen during the real show as much as possible. Grab a colleague or three and have them watch you, take notes, and ask lots of questions.
Until next time – stay safe, go learn something, maybe help someone, or at least do something interesting!
Please consider sharing this newsletter with someone who needs it.
All of my links in one place: https://linktr.ee/drdewett.