Here’s the situation: It was a big networking event, and the speaker was introduced as a networking guru, brought in from another state. The speaker began her presentation with a funny story about how someone bored her by talking only about himself over a get-to-know-you lunch. The speaker then announced that she would share five important networking tips with the audience.
Here’s the stupid mistake: “But,” the speaker said, “first I have to tell you more about my personal story.” The audience members let out a collective sigh. Fifteen minutes later, the audience still hadn’t heard the five tips, and people began to discreetly leave the room. I confess that I was one of the ones who left. A person I met just outside the room gave me an unsolicited comment. “I don’t care a bit about her personal story!” The speaker had broken her own rule about considering herself a bit too interesting!
Here’s the solution: Organize your comments, spoken or written, by beginning with whatever is most relevant to the receiver. Give the punchline first or as soon as you possibly can. The temptation to present a message chronologically is a trap. People don’t care how you came to know something. They just want you to tell them what you know and why it is important.
Yes, your personal story can add some interest and context–when it is kept to the minimum. Avoid leading up to your key points–start with them! Once you’ve established the message, you can add examples, illustrations, or humor. This is the way to keep your audience members “present” and engaged.