The Increasingly Difficult Task of Gaining Audience Trust

While Chris Lehmann was delivering his lunch-time keynote to participants in the ISTE/TIE Leadership Bootcamp, his computer froze and I'm pretty sure I'm the one to blame.

Just before his address, I recommended to him that he break from the standard a little and come down off the stand to be closer to his audience. Chris kindly followed my advice. His computer - probably a Mac running Windows or something like that - didn't like the new arrangement and so it froze on a slide entitled "Humility." No kidding. Being the caliber of presenter that Chris is, he handled the presenter's-worst-nightmare very well, complete with rag-tag tap dance and all. But I'm not really writing this post to apologize nor to extend Chris a well-deserved pat on the back. Instead, I'm writing about trust.

Trust is an amazing thing; built often by reputation, sometimes out of love, earned instantly on sporadic occasions and on others just over a lifetime. Trust is created by proving oneself: An earned confidence on the part of others, marked by belief in ability, certainty of potential, and reliance on capacity. Trust can be very hard to come by.

The reason I recommended to Chris that he break from the traditional organization of the room is that, having just experienced Jeff Pointek's keynote in the same room, I'd solidified further in my mind how difficult it can be to lecture the modern conference attendee. ("Attendee," of course, because "participant" doesn't really describe those consuming a lecture, now does it.) In watching the audience react to Jeff's hits and misses as he'd led us through his tale, I'd learned even better how difficult it can be to earn an audience's trust. And it's not just the laptops. It's that those laptops are now connected to a network and how - more than ever before - the modern presenter battles not only to earn the trust of an audience, but for the attention of that audience, as well.

Have you ever tried to earn a person's trust without knowing that they're even listening? Have you ever tried to do it knowing that they're not?

Therefore, just as we're taught as pre-service teachers, I think immediate audience proximity is increasingly becoming a necessity for presenters asked to lecture the networked generation. What do you do when even your most difficult students begin to stray off task? You move in closer, showing that you care, doing your best to earn the respect and trust you've come to deserve.

To be sure, I certainly don't know everything there is to know about this complex game we call education. As a result, I appreciate very much the opportunity I had to participate in this experience - and for Chris' perfectly-timed words on the essential requirement we all have to be humble in the service we give to others. I'm grateful to have (had? :-) the trust of such a capable teacher in Chris, and the humble manner in which he so passionately leads those in and out of his school.


Images source: Flickr user Katie Morrow.

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