Know Your Audience – Dog Gone It!

Everyone loves dogs! Or do they?


Dedicated to Dexter

We shared our home and family for over 16 years. You brought love, joy and discipline to our lives. While reminding us to be loyal, forgive quickly and enjoy every moment that we are alive.

Bless you, Dexter. You are missed.

On my recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, I had the honour of speaking at CITA – the Creative Thinkers Conference in Abu Dhabi on October 19th.

I indulged in a couple of extra days to tour Dubai. It was well worth the time. But when I got back to my hotel room, I realized that my laptop was not charging and my presentation had no power. Shocking! A traumatic discovery for a speaker that relies heavily on visuals and videos to tell the story! Resolution was more of an issue, particularly with the lack of international sockets that adapt 3-prong North American plugs. Oh, the joys of travelling.

I set out to Adu Dhabi, confident that someone there could help me resolve my power problem. My fellow speakers and multi-faceted outlets at the Novotel sparked a solution. Little did I know there was another obstacle looming?

At midnight, just before my morning presentation, I ran into a couple of other speakers in the hotel lounge. They were busy refining their presentation. Our conversation somehow turned to dogs. They told me that we couldn’t have dogs in our presentation due to the beliefs of some of the conference delegates. WHAT?

I have a KLM video in my talk that beautifully demonstrates their brand’s emotional value proposition. There was no way I wanted to remove it. It was perfect! I had a replacement example, however it involved popping a champagne cork and a bikini-clad model. Which was also not appropriate (even more inappropriate) for the audience.

Dog gone it! I was determined to keep the dog video.

So I went online to discover what the heck was wrong with dogs anyway. I discovered a caveat. Working dogs were acceptable. Phew! KLM’s dog is a working dog. So I kept the video in. Even though the next morning, I was warned again by another speaker to “Take the Dog OUT!” Not only was the KLM video an ideal example of brand value but it’s Dutch. And I’m Dutch. You know what they say about the Dutch… wooden shoes, wooden head, wouldn’t listen. So the video stayed in.

Halfway through my talk, it was time to push the play button. So far this decidedly unresponsive audience provided no feedback of any kind, there had been no smiles, no head nods, no visual or verbal clues that they were engaged at all. The fact that I needed to slow down my delivery for the interpreter was also challenging. Overall, probably the toughest talk I’ve done to date. What did I have to loose? It would either go from bad to worse, which I was prepared for. Or it would turn a corner and actually get a response… any response would be good at this point.

Play video…

The audience came alive… if only for a nano-second. They loved it! Who wouldn’t?  There were smiles, laughter and verbal exclamations – “Aaawwwww”, “so cute”, “Look at that!”. Joy abounded in that large echoing hall. I managed to increase their pulse, without offending anyone. Phew!

My international travel and diverse audience challenged my thinking and it taught me a deeper lesson. Get to know your audience even more than you think you know them. Don’t judge. Go deeper to understand the nuances of difference cultures and be creative in closing the gaps. Being informed and being creative can help you solve life’s little problems. Maybe dogs are the answer to world peace.

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