I was watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, when this clip – “And Now This: Why Would You Say That?” came on. . .
The video is cringeworthy to be sure, because seriously, why would you say that? But it also reminded me of several conferences and events I’ve attended where with one comment a speaker or announcer goes from interesting and educational to. . . weird.
And, like the video above, it is more often men than women speaking when this happens. Sorry not sorry guys.
So here is a quick tip from one speaker to another – when in doubt, don’t.
Casual references to sexual assault when referencing “touching” customers? (A favorite one in marketing circles as it relates to cross-sell and ongoing customer communication). Don’t.
Connecting “native” advertising to a particular politician’s heritage? Don’t.
Using a questionable accent? Don’t.
When in doubt, don’t try to be clever. Don’t try to be funny. Don’t try to turn a phrase into something “naughty.” Don’t share your politics. Don’t lean on tired stereotypes and tropes.
Don’t expect you aren’t going to hear about it from your audience.
And if you do – because, let’s face it, we all have moments when logic and experience fails us, particularly during the unscripted moments – don’t double down on your right to say those things. Or expect that because you said or did something good before you are inoculated from criticism.
Because it won’t.
Instead, listen to those who complain, and learn from what they are saying.
I promise, it will hurt at first but you will learn from the experience. I know, because I’ve been there, having once upon a time been called out on our podcast for a racist comment I made. At the time I remember feeling outraged, then embarrassed, then chagrined, as I considered our listener’s comment.
She was right. I was wrong. But I learned so much from the interaction, for which I am grateful.