Speakers Behaving Badly: Are You A Platform Abuser?

The platform is a privilege. When invited to speak, we have a responsibility to respect the audience and the nature of the platform (culture, venue, purpose of the invitation). Yet, many speakers take this responsibility lightly and abuse the platform. Some of the biggest abusers are Hollywood celebrities at the academy awards. It's disrespectul to accept an award and then use the stage for self-serving causes and political rants. When Jane Fonda received an academy award for the movie Klute, it was at the height of her anti-war protests. You could hear the audience breathe a sigh of relief when she said, "There's so much to say but now is not the time." Worse yet, are singers who pack the stadium to full capacity only to bash the current administration or turn the concert into a political rally. When people buy a concert ticket they expect to be entertained. To impose a political agenda is simply a bait and switch tactic.

The most recent platform abuser was reverend Michal Pfleger. He mimicked and mocked Hillary Clinton at the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ. What was especially abusive was to do this in a church or "House of God." A pastor's platform is to preach the Scriptures not to campaign for a presidential candidate. This was a betrayal of trust.

At conferences business speakers abuse the platfrom when they sell their products from the stage. An infomercial is not what they came to hear. There is an unspoken contract between a speaker and an audience. The audience expects you to provide value. While it's acceptable to challenge, stimulate and provoke thinking, it's not all right to change the program just because you have a captive audience.

One speaker announced that instead of lecturing he would have an open discussion. People left feeling dissatisfied. They wanted the speaker's expertise-not a chat. He violated the contract.

The next time you're invited to speak, clarify your role, know the audience expectations, and then keep your promise. Speaking is a gift. Resist the temptation to push your own agenda. And you'll continue to enjoy the privilege of the platform.