A recent study by researchers at Utrecht and Cambridge University found that an increase in testosterone can negatively affect a person’s ability to “mind read,” which is a strong indicator of empathy. The researchers placed testosterone under each subject’s tongue and then had them take the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test which is designed to assess how well someone can surmise what a person is feeling from photographs of facial expressions of the eyes.
Speakers need to “mind-read” as well and it’s so easy to get caught up in content and timing and lose awareness of the dynamics in the room.
I remember speaking at a conference in Miami. We were in a historic movie theatre that was turned into a conference space.
Since I was the second speaker, I was back stage waiting for my cue. As I stood there patiently, I noticed that the audience was distracted, unhappy, even uncomfortable. I was puzzled at first and then became concerned that my presentation was headed for disaster. I tried to figure out what was going on. And then it hit me: They were freezing. It was late January and the temperature outside was a record low – which probably meant 40 degrees. For a New Englander like me, it was warm enough for short sleeves. For the Miami audience, it was almost unbearable.
By the time it was my turn to speak, I had already asked the coordinator to turn the heat up and I started my speech by getting everyone to stand up and move around, and chat with the person next to them. By the time I started my presentation, I had the audience’s attention.
Are you fully present when you speak? Do you pride yourself on your ability to empathize? Let’s find out!