Personal Information: How Much Should A Presenter Reveal?

by drjim on July 14, 2009

Speakers Can Sometimes Share Too Much Personal Information

 

Have you ever sat through a dry an boring speech? Of course you have, we all have. Did you spend any time trying to figure out why the speech was so dry? I’m going to bet that at least one of the reasons is that the speaker didn’t connect with the presenter – the speech content itself was impersonal. Did you know that it’s possible for a speaker to go too far in the other direction also?

A Speech That Nobody Wants To Hear

Once upon a time I had the misfortune to attend a speech that was being given by a presenter who had been married four times. Now the fact that he had been married so many times was no big deal, but the speech was on how to choose the correct investment plan for a 401k. During the speech, the speaker must have “revealed” aspects about his four different marriages at least 30 times. To this day I really couldn’t tell you anything about the different funds that one could use as part of their 401k plan, but I can vividly recall aspects of each of this guy’s marriages. This was a clear case of TMI: too-much-information. No the speech wasn’t boring, but the amount of personal information that was being shared overpowered the message. There’s got to be a balance.

So Where Do You Draw The Line?

All of us desperately want to avoid giving boring speeches. However, we also want to make sure that our speeches have an impact – and if we’re sharing too much personal information this isn’t going to happen. Here are some tips on how to draw the line between too much and too little personal information correctly:

  • Match Your Speech Type: certain types of speeches naturally lend themselves more readily to having personal information included in them. Speeches in which you are trying to persuade or entertain your audience are great vehicles for more personal information. Speeches to inform are not.
  • Match Your Audience: Who is in your audience (and why are they there)? If you have a business audience who are looking for ways to keep their business afloat during a severe economic downturn, then your childhood stories are not going to be appropriate. However, if your are speaking to a Garden Club filled with mothers, then perhaps a childhood story might be the perfect way to establish rapport.
  • Stay On Topic: Sharing personal information just because it makes a great story (like my 401k presenter did) is a bad idea. You need to make sure that the story ties in with what your speech is all about. If it doesn’t, then skip it.
  • Listen To Your Audience: In the end, it all comes down to what your audience wants to hear. If, while you are giving your speech, you start to detect that your audience is not staying with you, then cut back on the personal information and instead focus on your core content.

Final Thoughts

This is one of those tough areas where you are going to have to rely on your speaker’s judgement. Sometimes you’ll get it right and sometimes you might be off the mark and include either too little or too much personal information in one of your speeches. However, keep at it and refine each speech the next time you give it. In the end, you’ll know how much personal information to include in order to be able to intimately connect with your audience and make an lasting impact in their lives.

Questions For You

When was the last time you sat through a boring speech? Why was it boring? Would it have been better if the speaker included more personal information? Have you ever attended a speech where too much personal information was shared? How did that make you feel? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If there is one thing that presenters dread more than forgetting their lines, it’s having someone add to their speech without an invitation. What should you do when someone in the audience starts to deliberately take away from your carefully rehearsed speech? Start crying and go home is always a possibility; however, I’ve got some better ways to deal with this situation for you…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Business Communication July 20, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Brilliant topic here. Its important that we speak in terms of the audience interest and anecdotes should relate to examples of success. We may have a great testimonial yet it is more impactful to share numerous stories that might better identify with the different kinds of people in the audience.

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Stephanie Scotti July 22, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Great insight on an often overlooked topic. I often read articles about how to tell a story do these articles provide guidelines for story selection. Thanks for adding this level of clarity.

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