One of my favorite movies (ok top 100 somewhere) is ‘Big’ with Tom Hanks. Tom is a 12-year-old boy that based on a wish turns into an adult, and well must ‘adult.’ It is another one of those “put a person in situation they don’t understand movie” – and yes everyone could guess the plot. But is a scene that as an adult I realize had a message all its own.
In this scene Tom Hanks is sitting in a meeting and while a marketing person makes their pitch on something that is obviously stupid no one is responding. Everyone is nodding like sheep as they understand the pitch, not willing to be the one person who questions it. Hanks puts his hand up, and just says “I don’t get it.” And in the following parts, you can see most of the people in the room did not get it. The scary thing, it was technically a 12-year-old who is willing to raise their hand.
In large corporate meetings I see this all the time. People nod, and since we are on zoom you can see them message someone “do you have any idea what they are talking about.” Somehow the fear is beating out of us to question things. Funny little kids will ask thousands of questions, as they are curious. Somehow by the end of school and entering the real world we do not lose the curiosity but lose the willingness to stand out.
In the above scene this should be acceptable. Asking all the questions until everyone understands or all the information is out. Unbelievably, I have often asked the questions when someone has sent me a team message, they do not get it. Believe me, if you do not get it, I guarantee more people in the meeting also do not get it. This is one time we should act like a child; this is one example where adulting is not better.
I am not going to go into how or why this notion of being able to question in a large group is beaten out of us, but more trying to beat into you that it is a habit that we should re-learn. Even if you understand what a presenter is talking about, and you think someone does not, step up. You will help others. To me there is no harm in being ignorant, there is a harm in not trying to educate to remove ignorance.
As a speaker, sometimes you need to read your audience. Silence does not mean understanding or acceptance. Silence often means dissent or confusion. Just like a band/DJ needs to read a audience to get people dancing etc. as a presenter you need to read your audience. Sometimes it could include saying, “I don’t think I explained that perfectly, let me try another way.” And restart, or even better instead of asking “Any questions?” pick someone in the group and say, “can you explain it back to me?” This accomplishes two things, making sure they get it, and making sure they understood what you said. (That may need to be another blog post)
So act Big…. well not really act like a child.
This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them
This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.