I hate stereotyping. I really do. But when I walked into the conference and looked around the room, all I saw were old, white, men, and my heart sank.
Now, I’m no spring chicken, and many of my closest friends fall into the same category, but as a demographic, I find them a tough audience.
I’m not entirely sure why. I’d need to do some soul-searching. And while I admit this bias says more about me, than the old white men, I still found the situation somewhat jarring.
My mind immediately went into overdrive.
Can they relate to me and my message? Closely followed by, why on earth did I say ‘yes’ to this!?
There was one man in particular. He sat there, expressionless. His eyes never left me for the entire hour.
It was disconcerting.
As a speaker, if there is a sceptical, cynical, or sarcastic expression on anyone’s face in your audience, it’s hard not to get sucked into that energy and let that person get into your head.
It can completely derail you.
But this was not my first rodeo, so I focused on what I do best, and tried hard not to let myself be distracted.
But couldn’t read him. I was puzzled. The more I tried to avert my gaze, the more my anxious mind, diverted me back.
I went from being distracted, to berating myself for being distracted, and back to being distracted again. ‘For goodness’ sake’, I said to myself ‘get it together, stay present!’ Argh!
Pretty amusing for someone talking about mindfulness don’t you think!?
But then again, mindfulness is about knowing where your mind is while letting go of unhelpful thinking, so even though I was distracted, I knew I was distracted, and that’s a far more powerful place to be.
It didn’t take me long before I managed to unhook, resettle my attention, and get into the groove.
But at lunch, I could still feel his gaze from a few tables away.
Then he did something which completely surprised me.
He stood up, walked over, held out his hand, and said with the utmost sincerity, “Thank you. That really meant something to me.”
Then he walked away.
I thought momentarily about asking him exactly what it was that I did that made a difference, but I didn’t.
Now, I often get people wanting to speak to me after events. To tell me how something I said resonated deeply, made complete sense, or changed their perspective.
But the most moving compliment I’ve ever received came from an old white man.