How to P*** Off Your Audience

As a presenter, what’s the single most powerful thing you can do?

Finish late. Do that, and you will turn a roomful of allies into a bunch of surly hostages. Now that’s power. It’s power you probably don’t want, but it’s true nonetheless. Just let the meeting/presentation /class/speech go long. See what happens next.

The thrill is suddenly gone.

Generally speaking, those people in the seats really want you to succeed, so they’ll cut you some slack. But keep talking for, say, five minutes over your allotted time, and those nice folks who were rooting for you will be looking for pitchforks (figuratively. You hope.)

You’d think this was self evident. 

We all know what it’s like to be stuck in those chairs ourselves. But something magical happens when you and I get up in front of people. We honestly believe we are special. That somehow, our content, our slides, our presence makes us the Presenter They Love. But it’s simply not true.

Why does five minutes matter so much?

Because of the Second Law of Presenting, which states that a presentation is based on trust. The audience gives you their time, believing that in exchange, you will give them something to make their day or job or life better. And, you will do that in the amount of time agreed to.

Essentially, the audience is saying, “We have been building something during this presentation, you and I. You’ve been leading me towards an End. But you went past the End. And, now, our entire relationship is in doubt. What else did you tell me that I can’t believe?

So, there you have it. The uber-rule for how to present well. No matter what, you finish on time.

In closing…

This is strong medicine, but you must believe me. No one likes to be kept long. Never, ever.

If you promise to follow this one rule, you have a real shot at your audience actually listening to what you have to say. Don’t believe me? Go ahead. Go long. You’ll find out what a difference five minutes makes.

Thank you for your attention. We are finished.