18 Elevate Your Audience

A photo of Michael E. Webber
Figure 18.1: Michael E. Webber

Michael E. Webber

These people feed me, shelter me, and love me . . . they must be God.” – Dog

“These people feed me, shelter me, and love me . . . I must be God.” – Cat

“These people show up just to listen to me talk and hang on every word and do what I ask . . . I must be God.” – Professor Who Speaks Down to Students

“These people come here just to learn so they can better themselves and improve society . . . they must be God.” – Professor Who Speaks Up to Students

One of the biggest mistakes I see teachers and other public speakers make is to speak down to an audience. Academia in particular invites this phenomenon, because the unspoken currency on campus is intellectual superiority. Professors are known to use specialized jargon and complicated equations that are designed to show how smart they are rather than to convey the information effectively to their audience. The downside of this approach is that the students feel patronized and are likely to tune out, which inhibits their learning.

Teachers are there to serve the students, not the other way around.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.A better approach is to elevate the audience. Teachers are there to serve the students, not the other way around. Speaking up to the students grants them the respect they deserve and will invite them to participate fully. I start classes off each semester by explaining why this subject is important, and why those students are important. Although my students might not remember everything I teach, they will remember the feeling they had while learning.

A photo of UT El Paso campus with overlayed text reading, "Is the respect between you and your students mutual?"
Figure 18.2: UT El Paso
A photo of Kenneth Roemer
Figure 18.3: Kenneth Roemer

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