Superior Presentations 65: Omit Your Hard Luck Story

From George Torok

The audience doesn't care about your hard luck story - unless it's funny. Even if it is funny, don't tell a story unless it makes a point that supports your message.

The speaker began his presentation by telling us that he had crossed three time zones to speak to us this morning. I'm not sure if he was bragging or complaining. There seemed no point to his tale. It didn't relate to his topic. Perhaps he was explaining why his presentation might be substandard. Perhaps he simply wanted a little sympathy.

Curious, he was there to sell his product and he seemed to be groveling.

He continued to relate his travel story by admitting that he instructed the taxi to take him to the wrong hotel. Clearly he had not checked and confirmed details.

There was no point to this story so why did he tell it. Did he believe that this was a good opening? Did he think that he was establishing rapport with this story that illustrated his ineptitude?

It wasn't funny. Instead, it lowered his credibility while boring us right from the start.

Fortunately for him his product was way more interesting than he or his presentation. Yes, sometimes the audience is astute enough to see past the ineptitude of the presenter. But you can never count on that luck.

Recently I experienced my own travel frustrations on the way to a morning presentation. I planned to take the commuter train and arrive about 45 minutes before the start of my presentation.

Because of Murphy (what can go wrong will go wrong) my train was taken out of service and the next train was delayed by a medical emergency. I walked into the packed meeting room as the MC started to read my introduction and began my presentation at the scheduled time.

The audience didn't need to know about my journey. That wasn't why they were there. So I didn't mention the delay to them. I quietly talked with the organizer to dispel his anxiety.

The presentation went well. Part of the reason was that I focused on the audience and my intended message and not on the frustrations of the morning journey.

Sometimes a story from your journey might help your presentation but be sure it does before you tell it.

George Torok

PS: This incident also served as a reminder to have the phone number and email of the contact in my BlackBerry.

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