Anyone who has ever delivered a speech, made a presentation, or performed in front of an audience knows how different the room looks from the front than from the back. It takes real courage to stand in the front of the room—whether you stand behind a podium, next to a projector, or on a stage with your bandmates. And no matter what you do in the front of the room, you have to get your head wrapped around two crucial ideas:
- You can’t please everyone.
- Don’t try.
Recently the popular band OAR performed at halftime of a Baltimore Ravens game at M&T Bank Stadium. I considered it a real treat. I’m a big OAR fan. My son, Zack, who is a musician turned me on to the group a couple of years ago. So I really soaked up the halftime show, singing along as the band performed. After the performance I put up out a tweet saying what a treat it was seeing the band in the middle of a football game. Sure enough about 20-percent of the responses I got came in on the super negative side. Not a big enough name band. Audio in the stadium wasn’t good. Band was too loud. Why couldn’t they get U2 to play. Really? A fun, change of pace halftime show and people go for the negative? Yup. You can count on it—whether you are the lead guitarist for OAR, or making a sales presentation in a conference room in Boise, Idaho.
I learned about this many years ago from a professional speaker and over the years I have found it to hold pretty true. The 20-60-20 rule. It goes like this: When you walk to the front of the room 20% of the crowd will love you, no matter what. They’ll relate to you. They’ll connect with you. For any number of reasons they are instant fans. A different 20% will dislike you—for reasons you can’t control (the color of your hair, the way you remind someone of their ex-spouse, the sound of your voice). And 60% of the people in the audience will fall in the middle between love and dislike. That’s the group you want to win over. That’s where the success or failure of your performance will really come in to play. Win over the majority of that 60% and you own the room. Fail to win over that core 60% of the audience and you’ll wish you had never seen that room.
The 20% who love you as soon as they see you are on board no matter what. You would have to go way out of bounds to lose them. The 20% who dislike you usually dislike everything and everyone. That’s about them not you. You can’t really do much to win over that group. Don’t waste time worrying about them. The 60% who show up undecided are the people you can influence with your performance. They want to love you. After all it’s in their best interest. If you’re outstanding you improve their experience. They’re all for that. You just have to give them a reason to love you. You do that by giving them your best, most authentic self in your performance.
Nothing wastes more time and energy than trying to please everyone. Spend enough time in the front of the room and you’ll learn that some people don’t want to be pleased. That’s their choice. You have the choice of whether or not you let that bother you.