In 1996, the movie Phenomenon was released. It starred John Travolta and Robert Duvall. I have to admit to not being a big Travolta fan, but I’ve really enjoyed Robert Duvall over the years.
The main theme is about an individual, George (Travolta) who is strcken by something “unknown” and develops an bizarre abilities.
Early in the movie George (Travolta) is trying to win the affection of a new lady in town. She happens to be an artisan creator of wicker chairs, which are said to be pretty uncomfortable. So George offers to let her sell them at his store. And they sell out almost immediately. She’s thrilled and continues to create more and drops them off at his store. Unknown to her, George is buying all her chairs
The scene that struck me was not as relevant to the main story line as it was about relationships. It’s in a bar and some locals are discussing George’s situation. Doc (Duvall) is present and offers some advice:
Baines: That’s all. It’s not like he really knew stuff. Just studied hard at chess and made us think he was changing but he never really changed at all. Ain’t that right Doc? He never really got any smarter. Doc?
Doc: Baines (pause) How’s your lady love?
Baines: We uh, we broke up.
Doc: Really? That’s too bad. Now George, he’s got a love at his side and she’s sticking with him. You know why? Because he bought her chairs. Pretty smart to me. Did you ever buy Lisa’s chairs?
Baines: (laughing) Gosh, Doc’s really drunk tonight.
Doc: Every woman has her chairs. Something she needs to put herself into, Baines. Ever figure out what Lisa’s chairs were and buy em? (pause) Nope. But you’re right about one thing, George hasn’t changed.
This is great relationship advice. Both personal and professional. And as a someone who has a chance to share a message with an audience, it’s essential.
If you ask successful speakers about the audiences with whom they connected and why it went so well, I would wager most will state “an understanding of the audience” would be one of their responses. Yes, you can spout facts and figures that are impressive and insightful, but unless they are relevant to the audience, it’s a waste of time.
Remember…every audience has “chairs”, something they care deeply about. And most likely, they’ve given you the honor of speaking because they believe you have something interesting and relevant to say about their “chairs”. Don’t disappoint them. Show you know and care about their “chairs”.
And as someone who has been honored to be married to the same lovely woman for 38 years, it’s good relationship advice as well.