How many times have you’ve gone to a presentation or workshop and the first 10 to 15 minutes are devoted to the presenter’s credentials, achievements, books and articles they’ve written and more? Of course, the audience needs some knowledge of the speaker to assure that s/he has, at least, some knowledge of the topic. Yet, don’t we generally attend based on prior marketing materials we have seen, heard or read to promote the presenter and his/her topic? Isn’t that why we attend?
I’m not saying that the audience should not know more about the speaker, yet there is a distinct difference between talking about yourself and telling a story about yourself. Professional speakers tell a story to make a point. Then, why not incorporate personal stories, make a point, and at the same time, allow the audience to get to know you as a speaker.
A while back, I attended a luncheon for trainers where the keynote speaker was giving a 45-minute presentation, highlights of his upcoming all-day training workshop. I was quite interested in the topic matter and I had intended to invest in the workshop—until he started speaking. He went on and on for nearly 15 minutes about his credentials and all the work which led to the results he was finally going to present. For example, he may have said something like, “I graduated from Smalltown University with a Masters in business marketing and I have written 10 books on business networking and five books on social networking. I’m proud to say that I was awarded the Networker of the Year last year. I have given presentations to multiple Fortune 400 companies. In my studies, I have found that…“. By the time he finally started to discuss the actual subject matter, 15 minutes later, I had already tuned him out and lost interest. Oh, by the way, I didn’t invest in his workshop.
Now, if he had began his speech by telling us a story of how his own business increased in sales by a whopping 150% in just 3 short months by following these three networking steps; then he would have grabbed my attention, and like the many others in the audience, I would have eagerly invested in his workshop.
Even in a technical presentation, you can tell a story related to your commitment and dedication to see a project through, no matter how long. For example, you might say, “We began our search five years ago. Each step in the progress brought us closer and closer to a breakthrough—yet each step seem to give us more questions than answers. For five year we had been pursuing the answer to the question ‘Why…;” however, just like Thomas Edison, we persevered, answering each new question and then—then just a month ago, we were working late into the wee hours of the morning—I’m sure you’ve done that, haven’t you?—when we achieved the breakthrough we were seeking. These are results…”
Particularly in today’s environment where the audience may have iPads, iPhones, etc, it is so easy to turnout a speaker and do something else. And what happens to your presentation if a member of the audience sends a text or tweets others and says, “Boy, is this speaker boring. He’s been talking for 10 minutes and I’m still not sure why I came.”
In essence, personal stories put the audience in the driver’s seat; whereas, talking about yourself and your experiences places the audience in the passenger seat. You want to have the audience in control of their own dreams, not yours, when you are finished with your workshop or presentation. So, don’t bore your audience with a list of accomplishments, etc. Rather, tell stories about yourself. Of course, make sure the stories are pertinent to your topic matter.