I had not heard of Marcus Lemons before and I really appreciated his first 10 minutes where he shared openly about his own vulnerability and modeled the power of self awareness. His point was the importance of vulnerability and self awareness in business. Having made a point I strongly agree with, he then proceeded to violate 3 of the cardinal sins of public speaking and by his 3rd "sin" I was ready to drive to Chicago and pull him off the stage.
1st sin: Don't ever call someone out for being asleep in your audience UNLESS you are a college professor who enjoys ribbing your students. BUT, if you are a professional speaker talking to professionals, it is a cardinal sin. Was the audience member really asleep or was he looking down? Or praying? Or maybe he was asleep because he'd had a rough night or travelled a long distance. Which leads to the second sin:
2nd sin: If your primary point is the importance of vulnerability, you can never force someone to be vulnerable. Having shamed a guy for seemingly being asleep in the audience, he then forced him on stage. The man was very gracious, waiting patiently while Marcus made his point. He then told the man to "share something with me that you've never told anyone." He then told the man to ignore that anyone else is in the room. He then handed the man a microphone. Nothing reminds you that you are NOT "the only person in the room" like holding a microphone. He then prompted the man several times to speak louder into his microphone. The man then graciously shared a raw story of tragedy from his life.
Vulnerability involves trust. If you're creating a culture that invites vulnerability, you cannot demand it. You have to create a space of trust and then invite people to step into it. By definition, you cannot push it onto someone. Marcus did not invite this man in, he coerced him. I was mortified and that is when my arms folded over my heart and I stopped caring what Marcus had to say.
3rd sin which became the unforgivable sin of public speaking:
Marcus told people to stand if you had someone working on your team that you wish wasn't on your team. He then publicly shamed people who didn't stand for not being honest. But let's say you lead an organization of 50 people and you stand. Now many of the 50 people are seeing you stand and are wondering, "is it me?" Now you have unnecessary repair work to do. You're left with a mistrustful and potentially hurt team because a speaker pulled a stunt. This isn't vulnerability, this is stupid and offensive to the good people under your care. And not for nothing, it may be that the person you'd prefer not to work with is a gift from God.
Marcus then invited 3 women up on stage. He wanted them to pretend they were all his mother and he was their son and he proceeded to lead them in a dialogue where "Mom" asked "son" about his day and no matter what they said, he made sure they lost. What was the point? What target were they supposed to hit? I have no idea. Stunningly, all 3 women dealt with the situation with tremendous grace, charm and humor. They were quick, funny, not hostile even though the game they were invited to play was "you lose." I was in awe of these volunteers and how they navigated a very difficult situation with poise. Marcus then proceeded to shame the audience for laughing at the situation. But these women were very funny. The laughter was appropriate, especially considering how uncomfortable Marcus made the situation.
If you are a public speaker:
- If the audience is laughing and they shouldn't be laughing it is almost always your fault, not their fault. Telling them off for laughing only exacerbates the distance between you and them.
- If you are a person of faith and a speaker, your job is to model the gospel by serving and loving your listeners, not shaming them.
- Never, never lead your audience down a path only to punish them when they follow you where you asked them to. Courts of law call this "entrapment" and it is a federal offense.
- Always be aware that the medium is the message. If your behavior and actions are in direct contradiction to your words, people will stop listening to you. They may still sit there, or may be looking at you, but you've lost their heart.
I really liked Marcus's first segment and his overall idea, but a series of major missteps closed me to the rest of what he was trying to say.