An analyst, a Vice President of Sales, a HR manager, and an executive walk into a conference Each is supposed to present. The analyst goes up first, listing all the facts and details from every one of the articles, journals, and websites they used to support their conclusions. Then, they present all of the data meticulously for the next ten minutes, overwhelming the audience until their eyes glaze over.
The VP steps up and attempts to liven things up by spinning every single point the analyst made into a story; retelling the facts in such a way that the audience can better understand them. They delve off into several tangents about other details that don’t really have anything to do with the subject matter, but for some reason they thought were important. After taking almost double the amount of time their predecessor used, they finish, leaving the audience wondering how a person could ramble on for so long, and how much longer the conference is going to take.
The HR manager arrives to apologize for the dullness and long-windedness of their colleague, and does their best to win over the members of the audience. They only mention that the many points the analyst made are important, and do their best to connect with the listeners in order to make it interesting for those still paying attention. By the end of their time, the HR manager has garnered enough empathy (and sympathy) that they can introduce their leader.
The executive takes the stage, thanks their colleagues for speaking, thanks the audience for listening for so long, tells a short joke, and begins their speech. They mention one or two vital points from the analyst, a brief story about another detail, and then explains why this conference is so important to everyone in attendance. They speak for about two thirds the time the others did, and somehow, amazingly actually, the meeting finishes on time.
The allegory: most of us channel the analyst when we’re presenting. While this can work, it doesn’t have a large impact on the audience. Some of us tell stories or dive into tangents to make things more interesting for those listening, but this gets us into trouble when we run over time. Trying to relate to the audience to garner empathy is vital to any presentation but is inadequate without providing the important information necessary to portray. Everyone has an inner executive which can determine the correct proportions of the other skillsets. Each of us can decide which are the most essential facts the audience will have access to, and through which stories. Then we can choose how many tethers of empathy we want to garner between ourselves and our listeners. When balanced wisely, we are able to instill the correct amount of information into the right timeslot while keeping the audience’s rapture. And, if we’re lucky, finish early…
Like anything else, practice makes perfect.