My close friend runs professional development seminars on a wide range of skills people need to grow their businesses. She shared an enlightening account with me: The presenter she had booked was borderline offensive. Her language was edgy and she really put audience members on the spot. A day after the seminar, my friend received two emails from attendees. One lamenting that the presenter had been offensive and the other thanking my friend because he thought the presenter was great and hired her to consult.
This immediately reminded me of a book I had read on presenting magic. The author argued that if you don’t offend a small percentage of your audiences you are losing an opportunity to be memorable and create an “after-buzz” about your presentation. He warned against offending a large part of your audience. I remember thinking that was ridiculous, but experience shows that some people who know how to walk that line can gain an edge.
Is “offensive” really the right word? We are not talking about assailing religious convictions or being a racist. But what about a marketing presenter telling someone that his elevator pitch is weak and asking the rest of the class, “who would want to buy that product?” I remember while getting my MBA, in strategic marketing one of my classmates confided in me that she was offended that after offering a lengthy comment on our case study, the professor tersely replied, “so what?” It seems that what one person construes as offensive is just another person’s idea of being direct and not sugar coating.
Think about your networking circle. I bet you can name a few people who successfully perform that delicate dance on the edge. Some people call them offensive and others think they have a confident edge. These people tend to have a loyal group of followers, but have also alienated a small group. We would probably all agree that they are memorable.
Also, walking that line may make sense for a marketing consultant or prosecuting attorney, but not so much for an undertaker or family counselor.
What do you think? Is there any advantage to being “offensive”? I ‘d love to hear from people who have that reputation as well as from those who have observed that behavior in others. Click here to chime in.