Presentation Skills / Presenting Skills / Sell Yourself


I don’t like calling people out when they’ve done something wrong or bad, in public, so please forgive me when I keep the identity of this gentleman hidden.

Just recently, I was in a situation when I attended a private talk and tour of a historical building in my hometown. I was really looking forward to the wonderful stories of past years taking in the immense history of the building and area. I always like to use this time to try and imagine what it would have been like living in those times and how tough it really would have been. Stories take me on a journey into the time that is being ‘presented’.

‘It was a cold and eerie night, the moon was just about full as it was trying to peek through the scatter clouds floating through the sky, your breath froze with every word you spoke’ – now you get an idea of what kind of evening it was.

We knew we would be on this tour for about 2hours, give or take, and we were eager to get started.

Now, please excuse me, I’m going on a crazy rant about this man’s presentation skills, or lack there off…

We started late, as we were waiting for two late comers (I cover that in blogs about etiquette), but the small talk before the tour wasn’t a good representation of the company in which he was employed. There’s one thing to be casual and welcoming, it’s another thing to be rude about where the people come from.

When we started the tour, he initially started off telling us about the history of the land and township from convict years. It was all so terribly exciting and you could get an idea of the hardship they endured when living there all those years ago. He told us about the ‘area with the lights in a row’ but what I could see was about three different areas with ‘lights in a row’ so I was lost trying to find where he was speaking of, then I lost the ‘story’ he was telling. At this point, we are about 4 minutes into the tour and I’m feeling along already. The three lights had great significance in the history of the town, but now I have no connection to the reason why we are here.

Question One: How would you have changed the way he presented this, to ensure all the ‘guests’ were following him

We then started to move into the building, but because we were outside and people are chatting and getting to know each other, we were all a bit slow to take off. He started to tell another interesting fact about the entrance gate, but the only people around him was the six, or so, people with him at the front of the tour. Typically, I am at the back of the group, which must come from my hospitality days, wanting everyone else to go before me, so – I miss out on more interesting information.

Question Two: How would you have changed this?

We are about to enter the building and he stops, raises his hand and says “I expect to lose 3 to 4 of your tonight because what you’ll see inside will scare you so much, you’ll run from here and never return…” Some ladies yelped, some of us turned to each other and got very excited, others hugged their partner and whispered ‘don’t let me go’. The expectation was set so high we were all so excited, there were great ahead for us as we walk through the gate.

The way the ‘stories’ were now starting to be told to us were of a lecturing nature, I felt like I was being scolded with the information I was told. Sadly though, the stories didn’t have great structure to them so we were all lost in the content – there wasn’t any drama to pull us in, no pregnant pauses, no interesting points to remember or engage us. What did come in was some random points of ‘interest’ that didn’t have any relevance or connection to an earlier (or later) point. If I had to say what I thought the tour was, it was a verbal dot point flyer that I could have read myself about the history of the building.

Question Three: What would you have done to connect these random points throughout the tour?

At the end of the tour, the guide showed us some photos taking in previous years at the venue from his iPad. He told us a little about the photo in advance, so we knew what we were looking at, at the photo, but the delay in trying to find the photo in his album took such a long time, it took away from the thrill of the story and connecting it to the photo.

Question Four: How would you have altered the way this was presented?

In summary, I find sometimes, we learn how to do something so great by watching how someone does it so badly. We learn how to manage people by having a bad manager ourselves and altering our behaviour. I have given feedback on the presentation skills of this tour guide and it has been very well received.

This is not a random rant on some poor soul. I believe I’ve done the right thing by talking to him first, and now taking the learning points to help myself and you too.

PS, not one person went running and screaming from the tour.

Question Five: How would you have changed the way you would give the expectations of the tour?

Please leave your comments below in how you would answer the five questions. There’s no right or wrong answer, and we can all learn from each other’s comments and thoughts.

Presenting comes in all forms, whether you’re speaking in front of 1000 people, talking to a small group of 30, teaching a classroom of interested people, or doing a site tour of a facility. All forms of presenting can have such enormous outcomes (both good and bad) it all depends on what skills you have and want to learn.