Movie Quotes, Half-Stories and other Presentation Problems

I love movie quotes. They help connect people through a shared experience, even though the movie was watched separately. Magic. Except…when you use the movie quote in a meeting and there are people who did not see the movie or do not remember the quote.Then the opposite happens- people in the meeting feel left out and often annoyed.

Movies are not the only references. The same thing happens when you use expressions like-

  • “I’m sure you all have heard the story…”
  • “Like the old-joke goes…”
  • “Sports legend (insert name here) was famous for…”

I can feel my age in the moments I try to use a reference to the movie “The Godfather” or make the statement “No one got fired for buying IBM.” I lose a chunk of the group to whom I am speaking because they don’t have the reference.

What to do:

  1. Tell the whole story – If you have a key story, which is critical for creating memorable points in a presentation, tell the whole story rather than assuming your audience has the same reference. To slim-down the story, prepare it and script it in advance.
  2. Frame the story – In your presentation, a good story is more meaningful when it illustrates a point. When you have told your story, summarize what it meant to the audience.
  3. Clean out the non-compelling references – Dropping lots of references to pop-culture and historical references can become distracting. Tell fewer stories and you will create a more memorable discussion.