How to Work a Crowd

Helping Professionals To Use Story to Transform Communities

How to Work a Crowd

In a previous post, I spoke about the number one leadership killer.

Although it’s crucial to be aware of that very common misstep that passionate visionaries make, it’s even more crucial to acknowledge a skill that is the backbone of leadership: crowd control.

We’re not talking “police officers on mounted patrol” type action. I’m talking about honoring a group of people who believe in your vision enough to give you their attention.

If you honor them, then you’ll treat their attention like the gift that it is and move them into a place they’ve never been before. That is “crowd control.” To do that, you have to build trust, and build it fast.

One way or another, a vision will attract attention and an audience. If you have a compelling vision, eventually you’ll stand in front of a group of people. It may be a group online, or it might be in person.

A good leader addresses these three types of people in the group in order to build the trust needed to move people where you need them to be:
1. People who have questions
2. People who disagree with you
3. People who weren’t paying attention

First, despite your strong vision, people who are interested may still have questions. They may have different agendas for asking them, but the bottom line is this: “Can I trust you to give me answers when I need them?”

The answer they receive should always be “yes.”

Even when you’re still figuring it out yourself. Be authentic and say so– and don’t be annoyed at the questions. They tell you what you need to address, and many times, your crowd will see things you don’t yet. People need to know that you’re going to search for the answers that they need.

Action -- reaction Source:

Action — reaction

Second, a strong vision will always attract naysayers. It’s Newton’s Third Law.

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

Get over it– but address it. If they’re in your audience, they will also have the ears of your converts. So the question being asked here is: “Can I trust you to respect my differences?”

Admit when a naysayer has a good point. Address anything that needs to be cleaned up. Do it with respect and with grace.

Last, there will be people who are late to the party. Their friends are telling them about the amazing things you’re bringing to the table. They just walked into the room and missed the dynamic message. They’ll only know half of the story, and they’re probably getting it wrong.

But they’re in your audience. So they need to know: “Can I trust you to include me?”

You’ve got to give them the space to catch up. Repeat your message often and in different ways. Don’t just tell them which way you’re going; draw a map and hold their hands.

We assume that the people in our audience will always be there. Your faithful core needs to be reinspired by your vision as much as your new folks need to be introduced to it. Finding new ways to deliver your message gives your faithful core a chance to get excited again.

I’m a transformational event expert and I work with an organization built on 5 basic principles. Every semester, I teach courses based on those principles and I must find new ways to invigorate those 5 principles to old and new audiences.

I never run out of ways to do it, and my students and clients love my events because of it.

Do the work to work your crowd. Keep those three members of your audience in mind, and you’re sure to have a solid following.

Feel free to leave a comment– or tell me your story.


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