Why do people love the positive-attitude presenter?

By Laura Bergells on

We have different feelings about that guy. Who’s that guy?

Oh, you know that guy. He’s that presenter that’s very pumped up in front of his audience. He’s idiotically happy, and demands that you act that that way, too.

HE: Good morning!
AUDIENCE: Mmm.
HE: I can’t hear you! Gooood MORNING! Let me hear you say GOOD MORNING! C’mon! It’s a beautiful day! Let’s make this the start of a super positive day! GOOD MORNING!

fake a smile.

photo by Lauren Garza

Yeah. I don’t like that guy. Most everybody else in the audience hated that guy, too. Can you blame us? It was 8am. We were all easing into  our days with mugs of coffee in a corporate training room. The forced cheerfulness made everyone feel hostile toward the outside training guy almost immediately. Frowns, groans, and eye rolls all around.

Afterwards, connecting with colleagues, we agreed. The presenter was insufferable. Corny, cheesy, fake-positive awful. For hours.

When I told the story of our unanimous dislike for the faux-cheerful speaker to other colleagues, I was reprimanded.

“What’s wrong with you? I love positive attitude guys. They give me a lift. You should have given him a chance.”

In all fairness, I gave him a chance. I felt insulted. So did most of the people in the room.

As a presenter, I need to gauge the mood of the audience and adjust my tone and style. Most of the time, a business presenter needs to be slightly more peppy than the audience. (There are exceptions.) Displaying a little more energy than your audience demonstrates courtesy. Without words, a slightly amped energy level says that you acknowledge the feelings of the audience while being mindful that you’re enthusiastic about your content.

If you go way overboard and fake an egregiously cheerful attitude, you cross a line. It says that you don’t care about the feelings of the audience: you’re going to try to force them to be as falsely cheerful as you’re pretending to be. It even sends a message that your content isn’t that good — instead of being genuinely enthusiastic, you have to fake your enthusiasm.

So yeah, I don’t like that guy. But my question is: why on earth do other people seem to love this guy?

6 comments

  1. As a positive attitude guy, who is typically insanely happy, I hate this guy too. I hate faking it – and I don’t ask others to fake it.

    I also hate those who are the opposite of me – the always negative person. The person who finds nothing good with anyone, and no matter how good the day is, they’ll always find something wrong.

    In my opinion, the reason the always happy guy resonates is because of our own aspirations – we hope we’re that happy guy, we want to be that happy guy, and we want others to see us as that happy guy, because that is how we see ourselves. And that’s how it typically is – we see what we are, not what the other person is. If we’re annoyed with someone, it’s because of a quality we don’t have, or that we find annoying in us.

    That’s my $.02 anyway. From one happy guy to another :)

  2. Yeah, Phil — I’m wired for positivity, too. I tend to be cheerful and own a sunny disposition.

    However, I feel empathy for others who may not share my enthusiasm! And as an upbeat person, I’m acutely aware when someone is faking it. It’s the lack of authenticity that I find objectionable.

    If you’re happy: terrific. If you’re faking happiness: creepy.

  3. Yes, that “needs to be slightly more peppy than the audience” works; it brings them up.

    Now, as you go along, go up a little more; they will follow.

    If your content is worthwhile, this way of communicating it will win.

    Go do a great one.

  4. I think what’s so objectionable about the faux cheerleader is that his style is all about HIM. He’s not tuned to the audience, he’s tuned to himself, and then tries to force the audience (and guilt-trip them, if necessary) to tune to him as well. He’s insisting that the audience rev up their enthusiasm from zero to sixty without giving them a REASON for being enthusiastic. Let’s face it, every audience member has WIIFM (what’s in it for me) playing in their brain, and now this guy wants them to do something for HIM. To give him his due, he knows that an enthusiastic audience will absorb his message better. However, a wiser approach would be to start with an interesting (and relevant) activity, thereby letting the audience generate their own enthusiasm. Even better, make such a genuine connection with the audience, using smiles, eye contact and energy, that the audience is irresistibly drawn into his own genuine enthusiasm. That way, he’s GIVING to the audience, not demanding something FROM them. It makes all the difference.

  5. People love this guy because:

    A. Not loving him would be negative (as you experienced)
    B. They don’t have to be real in the moment – like eating dessert all day without worrying about the scale
    and C. He isn’t challenging them, but he might make them occasionally laugh.

    I can’t be this guy – won’t be this guy. Somebody once told me I’ll never be this guy. But I want his bank account.

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