You’re Such a Character!

In addition to the personality types that we all carry with us every day, we also enter situations in different frames of mind, depending upon our mood, the circumstances of the presentation and any number of factors. If our personality type is the operating system of our minds, our attitude at any different moment is the software program we’re working in. The result of these elements is the character type we represent as members of an audience. As presenters we tend to have greater awareness of personality types when dealing one-on-one and greater awareness of character types when presenting to a roomful of people. If you’ve ever done the latter, tell me if any of the following people sound familiar:

Fast Freddie.

This is the extrovert. He wants your speech to go quickly so he can get back to doing some of the talking himself. Watch out for this guy in meetings you’re leading. He can create a major distraction and undermine your sense of purpose.

Methodical Mary.

She thinks about things very carefully before she does them. She listens closely to the presenter to determine what course of action she should take in response. Don’t allow her to make you self-conscious. Be prepared to expect that she’s hanging on every word.

Detail Dan.

He likes to write down everything and loves the lists and charts you may use in your presentation. Handouts will give Dan a more fulfilling experience, since they will enable him to write less and listen more.

Friendly Fran.

She loves people and is the opposite of Detail Dan. She would rather chitchat with those around her than take notes, and she may very well do so during your presentation. Short of asking her to be quiet, you may want to put her to work distributing handouts or involve her in some other ways.

Greg the Graduate.

He is the know-it-all and considers himself already to be an expert on all you have to say. He may as well be sitting in the room wearing a mortarboard. Look for frowns, smug looks and rolling eyes. Giving a nod to his perceptiveness during the presentation will turn him from a rival to an ally.

Prisoner Pete.

He is the guy who does not want to be at the presentation, but felt like he had to come (or, worse, was made to come). We don’t like to see this person in the audience, but let’s face it: we’ve all been in the situation of being forced to sit through a presentation that we didn’t really want to attend. He often has his arms crossed in a “pouting defense” posture

Student Steve.

With a roomful of these guys you’re golden. He has a pen behind his ear and is taking thoughtful notes on his laptop computer. He has come to learn and is really listening to the speaker. With just a few more Steves in your presentation world, life would be a bowl of cherries.

Vacationing Virginia.

She is the person who acts like she’s sipping a pineapple drink with an umbrella in it. To Virginia you are a form of entertainment – or at least a terrific excuse for her to play hooky from her other chores. She’s just happy to be there instead of working, and you’ll find her overly relaxed to the point of tuning out. She won’t disrupt your presentation, but if you can get her to learn something it will be a real accomplishment.

Champion Charlotte.

She is the cheerleader for the speaker’s ideas and will stand up and give testimony about why she believes in the concepts. She can validate your statements with personal experience, no matter what they are. Beware Charlotte. She can give you a short-term ego boost, but if she starts sounding like a shill she may alienate your audience.

Sniper Sid.

The opposite of Charlotte, he is the guy who intends to shoot down your ideas no matter what they are. Unlike a heckler, whose very purpose is disruption, Sid is just a cynic who thinks he’s got something to prove. Disarm him with humor.

The achievement of our goals always requires two things: preparation and execution. The first essential step on the road to becoming a Master Presenter is to know what to expect from the audience and to respond accordingly. We can certainly gather information about our audience the moment we walk into a room, but we will be much more thoroughly prepared if we have done our homework beforehand, making an effort to discover the types of personalities to expect, their prejudices, likes and dislikes, strengths and constraints, preconceptions, and motivations. With your presentation modified to address the features that make your audience unique, you can then cope with whatever mood – in the form of character types – they happen to throw at you.

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