Don’t let “that guy” interrupt your presentation

I was at a party once telling my favorite story. Everyone has a favorite story, the one that always gets a laugh. I’m building towards the laugh line when a rude gentleman who had had a few too many interrupted. We’ll refer to him as “that guy.” Something I said had reminded “that guy” of his favorite story. He said “Oh, that reminds me of the time…”

The spell was broken, the rhythm was lost and my story was as good as done. At some point “that guy” turned back to me and said “I’m sorry….what were you saying?” Too late, never mind.

In presentation too many presenters are their own rude drunk interrupting their own story. This is because many presenters often have tangents in their talks and say things that are not essential to their presentation objective. They will interrupt their own content with information that only touches the outer edge of the presentation objective, because they often say things that occur to them while they  are speaking.

I call these “Oh, by the way” statements.

I once saw a gentleman delivering a presentation on the postal requirements for a specific direct mail piece that a customer was designing. This was, of course very relevant to the client. But then the speaker had an “oh, by the way” moment and went off on a tangent regarding postal requirements in general and how they are effecting the direct mail industry as a whole. He even mentioned how the new regulations were impacting his job.

This tangent of his was related to the topic at hand but it was not absolutely essential to the objective and so should never have been mentioned. It’s important to note as well that this little tangent only lasted ninety seconds or so but that is more than enough time to break the spell and lose the focus of your audience. Two or three of those kinds of tangents in a presentation are guaranteed to make your audience press the mental “off” switch on your talk.

To avoid this we must do two things, first relentlessly edit our content and remove from the presentation anything that is not absolutely essential to achieving the presentation objective. Next, practice the presentation and stick to the content so that we avoid impromptu tangents that draw the audience away from the presentation objective.

If we use the right techniques we can design content that will draw the audience in to our talk and hold their attention for every moment. Don’t let “that guy” interrupt and break the spell.


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