Making Your Audience Feel Special: Lessons from an Indian Housekeeper

When you’re presenting, do you care about your audience?

If your answer is “yes” (which I hope it is), then the next question is: how do you show them you care?

If you’re able to deliver an insanely great presentation, that’s certainly one way to show them you care. Engaging design. Impactful visual images. Rehearsed and smooth delivery.

Those are some elements of an amazing presentation. The truth, however, is that every presentation should include all of those things.

I feel that in order to make an audience feel truly special, we presenters need to pay attention to the little things, too. This thought struck me like a ton of bricks during a recent stay at the Fortune Hotel in Madurai (India).

I had just returned to my room after a long day of meetings, and this is what greeted me as I walked into my room:

03132014 - Bed

03132014 - Nessie

A neat room, clean towels in the bathroom, a freshly made bed – those are the equivalent of an engaging presentation with impactful visual images and a smooth delivery (if you’re not able to offer those basics, it’s kind of like sticking your audience in a pay-by-the-hour motel).

The housekeeper that was attending to my room went way above and beyond to make me feel special.

03132014 - Note

He left a basket of clean clothes on the bed along with my fleece arranged in a fun pose and some towels in heart-shaped formation. On the coffee table, some type of long-necked towel animal (the Loch Ness monster?) waited for me, along with the coup de grace: a simple, hand-written note. “Have a successful day. Welcome back.”

These little things are memorable. I don’t know that I actually met the housekeeper tending to my room, but he certainly made me feel like he cared about my experience, and my success! If I’m in Madurai again, I think I’d like to return to this specific hotel.

What’s the equivalent when getting ready for a presentation? A training room that’s neatly laid out. A hand-written note, customized for each attendee. Learning their names as quickly as possible. This stuff is all free, and it will immediately establish a connection with your audience.

What kinds of things are you doing to make your audience feel special, like they’ll want to pay attention to every word you have to say, like they’ll want to come back? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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How Bob Pike Would Help An SME Out Of A Jam

On Monday, I put out a desperate plea, seeking advice for an SME who had a tough time in the preparation and delivery of a presentation (click here to see the full post). Training legend Bob Pike read the case study and decided to weigh in on this particular situation. Following is what he suggested.

Agree? Disagree? Have other ideas? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

“Here are questions I would ask in order to respond to the situation:

1. How many in the audience?

2. Are they all eye doctors?

3. Why did they need this presentation?

4. What is the outcome of the presentation supposed to be?

5. Why were you asked to do this presentation? What do you bring that is unique?

Then, given that it is only 30 minutes and that there is probably a huge amount of expertise in the audience I might approach it this way:

1. I’ve given each of you a piece of paper. Working with a partner you have two minutes to draw an eyeball and label as many parts of it as possible. Begin. At the end of two minutes I would say, “familiarity doesn’t mean competence.”

2. Then, I would allow them two minutes to confer with those around them and add/subtract/correct anything they want to.

3. I would the use this as a springboard into pulling from them the anatomy starting from macro to micro, maybe with a large poster of the eye rather than a PowerPoint just to change it up.

One thing we constantly talk with our trainers about is having at least two ways to present each piece of content so that we are not dependent on technology.”

Bob Pike CSP, CPAE, CPLP Fellow, MPCT

Chairman Emeritus/Founder, The Bob Pike Group

Founder/Editor, The Creative Training Techniques Newsletter

Past Chairman of the Executive Board – Lead Like Jesus

Presentation Prep: When that little voice of self-doubt starts talking to you

I’ve been working with a bunch of colleagues to prepare a slew of presentations that will be delivered over the next several weeks. Several of my colleagues have expressed their concerns about whether they will be able to put on a good show for their audience. I, myself, have felt these same doubts about my own upcoming presentations.

As I was checking my Twitter feed last week, I was surprised to see similar thoughts of self-doubt coming from Jane McGonigal.


This, coming from a New York Times bestselling author of one book who has also delivered some of my favorite TED talks.

It made me feel better. It seems that everyone, regardless of how successful, has a little voice of self-doubt. It probably means that we really care about what we’re doing. That’s the good news.

The bad news, however, is that just because everyone has that little voice of self-doubt, doesn’t mean that, in the end, everything will turn out ok. I’ve seen many, many presenters who have voiced self-doubt… and in the end, that little voice was correct: their presentations were terrible.

Successful presentations are hard work. They take preparation, practice, creativity and the drive to prove that little voice of self-doubt incorrect.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time came from Tom Hanks in A League of their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” He was talking about baseball, but these words are true for every profession.

When that little voice of self-doubt creeps in, it’s important to embrace “the hard”.

Come back on Thursday to read about 4 different ways that my colleagues and I have stomped out that little voice of self-doubt to create presentations that will excite and engage our audiences.

Know someone who’s trying to stomp out their own little voice of doubt? Pass this post along.

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