Thursday, July 31, 2008

How do you feel when you get ripped off?

I am in New York City in advance of the NSA Convention starting this Saturday. A group of us went out to see some sites yesterday and one experience got me thinking.

After touring the Lincoln Center, we headed into Central Park to grab a bite for lunch. We stopped at the approved Park Services hot dog cart close to the Tavern on the Green. The four of us each had a hot dog and we ordered two bottled drinks as well. The pricing isn’t easy to see, and the man said “That’ll be $18” so I paid him. After lunch, we walked through Central Park and noticed other similar stands where the price was $2 per hot dog and $2 per bottled drink. That comes to $12, not $18.

How did I feel? Well, as you might expect, I felt angry at being ripped off, mad at myself for not realizing it when it happened, and wondering if all the stories about everyone in New York trying to rip off tourists are true. My concluding thought was that if he was acting that way, clearly he needed the money more than I did. I prayed that he sees the error of his ways and realizes that there is a better, more honest way to behave.

It got me thinking about what I see too often in presentations. I hear presenters tell stories that they found on the Internet as if the story actually happened to them. I see graphs with distorted axes in order to make numbers look more favourable than they are. Why the dishonesty? I think it is because we are afraid of what would happen if we tell the truth. If the audience knew the real situation, they may not buy our idea, product or service.

Well how does the audience feel when they do figure out the truth – and they will figure it out far sooner than you think they will? Probably similar to the way I felt yesterday afternoon in Central Park – hurt, angry and disillusioned. Is that how you want your audience to feel after your presentation? I hope not.

I’d rather you do the hard work to come up with a great argument, dig deep to tell a truthful personal story, and have the courage to report results as they really are instead of making things up. I think your audience will respect you more and will give your message more consideration. And I think that’s what we all want anyways.

Hope to see you at the NSA Convention this weekend. If you are there, make sure to come up and say “Hi”!


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