It is hay fever season. If you are a presenter this can be a miserable time of the year. The coughing the sneezing, the runny nose that doesn`t even rest to catch a breath. Not only that you have buy a lot of tissues. On top of that if you have ever stuffed a wad of tissue up your nose just to get it to stop, you have probably discovered that this looks very uncool during a presentation. I have gotten few laughs myself when I forgot to take one out of my nose.
I personally have suffered from hay fever for almost as long as I can remember. When I was kid, I was allergic to cat hair, to ragweed, to various pine trees, etc. When I moved to Japan and I got a little bit of relief for about two years. After that I have been suffering from hay fever ever since. Having lived with a long time, you either resent it, give up, or try to find something good about it. If you are a presenter, there are so many other things that could easily drag down your energy level hay fever shouldn`t be one of them. So let`s look at the bright side of hay fever.
Build Instant Rapport with Hay Fever!
As a presenter, building rapport with very important and it can be difficult. But rejoice, as a hay fever suffer you already have a simple way to get sympathy and build report. In Japan, about 1 in 4 people suffer from hay fever. So just by sharing the fact that you suffer from hay fever you can get about 1/4 of the audience to become your instant friend. The other 3/4 either have friends or spouses who have hay fever, so it should not be hard to get them to be sympathetic either.
You could start like this: “Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen. I do apologize that there may be some of the coughing and sneezing during this presentation. But, like some of you I suffer from hay fever.” Coughing and sneezing can be annoying to some people, but by apologizing in advance, you diffuse some of the tension. And as long as you take the time to control the symptoms enough that it doesn`t seriously get in the way of your presentation, people will remain sympathetic.
Better than a Perfect Human!
As an added bonus, this makes you look human. Many speakers feel that they have to be “professionals” and show no weakness. Showing a weakness can be bad for your image. If you sneeze and cough some during your presentation that is just unprofessional. A “real” professional would do all the research and take the needed medicine. So, that by the time he or she gets on stage there is no way the audience could tell that person from a normal human being.
However, is that really true? Think your own experience. Have you heard some advice from an expert only to think “that is easy for you to say.” Or run into a person who seems to have it all and light years away from where you are. By sharing your weakness, it can make your message easier to swallow. A member of the audience may think “If a someone who suffers from hay fever can do it, maybe I can too!” Plus, hay fever is great because it is a weakness that will not damage your trust or your expertise. You just have to make sure you manage your symptoms to that they do not get in the way of your presentation too much.
Hay Fever is Great Material!
So, you have shared the fact that you have hay fever, your have shown yourself as not only an expert in your field, but also human that suffers like everybody else. So, what is next? It is time to share some material. There is no end of material that comes from hay fever. The time you ran out of tissues at inopportune time, the constant struggle of trying to find hay fever that works, the time you may have mistaken someone because your mask fogged up your glasses, etc. By weaving one or two stories in your presentation, it can create a shared between you and the audience and deepen the connection between you and them.
You may think that building a connection to hay fever and whatever topic you’re going to talk about would be tough. But when you look at the essence of the episode it can be easier than you think. After all who would have thought that you could combine hay fever and building rapport with the audience! For example:
- The Importance of Design: My struggle with badly designed tissue boxes
- Price and Value: Cheap Tissue lead to Sore Noses
- Resilience: How I build more will power through my hay fever struggle
- Function and Design: How fun masks not only block pollen but also make you happier.
And there many more where those came from. So, just if you just spend a little extra time and brainstorm a few ideas, you will find connections to hay fever and your topic.
For me building rapport is just the tip of the iceberg. I could have gone on say how my struggle with hay fever, made me more aware of my own health. It made me learn to concentrate more so that I get distracted less. It made me learn plan and prepare so I will always have enough tissues, etc. There are other good things that I could say that comes out of this. But, the important thing is not that I or you have hay fever, but that you as a speaker serious look at whatever “weakness” that you have. If you really think about it, there is a lot of things that you can learn from your “weakness.” There are plenty of things from those “weakness” that can make you a better speaker and a better person. To please take the time not only to build on your strengths, but also look at your “weakness” you may be surprise as out useful they can be. And to all you hay fever suffers out there. Good luck! We still have a quite a few weeks to left to deal with.