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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Parable of the Waiter

A few weeks back I had the great opportunity to guest post for Lily Kreitinger.  In that post, titled Got The T-Shirt, I put forth an analogy that seemed to resonate with many of the readers and commenters on Lily's blog.  Because of that, I wanted to share this analogy with you. 

Photo courtesy of zoetnet, some rights reserved.

Imagine This...

Ok, so imagine this.  You walk into a restaurant and sit down.  Now, when I say restaurant, I mean a good restaurant--No paper napkins, and no yellow or red in the logo--just so we're clear. 
When you walk in, you are met by a smiling host or hostess that welcomes you to the restaurant, asks how many in your party, and asks you to please follow her to your table.  You sit down, the hostess gives you your menu and tells you that your waiter will be with you shortly.
When the waiter walks to your table, what do you notice?  Is he well dressed? Does she smile and seem friendly? Is she knowledgeable in what is being offered on the menu?
You notice all of these things and each of them, to some extent, affects your dining experience. 
But what affects your dining experience more than anything?  I would venture to guess it is the food! (and we all know Chris LoCurto is gonna LOVE a post about food!)
I say this because you go to a restaurant to eat good food.  Yes, you want to have great service, and if the service stinks, you probably won't go back, but you really are most interested in the food. 

The Analogy

Now let me tie this all together. 
Let's look at this experience in regards to speaking in front of a group, or teaching a group.  If we are to use the above experience as an analogy, who would be the waiter? The diners? The food? The service and appearance of the waiter?
Here's my suggestion:
As the speaker or teacher, you are the waiter.  Your audience, the diners.  The food that they came hoping to enjoy is the information that you are putting forth in your speech, training, or lesson. 
Now, where does the service and appearance come in? 
The appearance and service is your appearance as the presenter as well as your speaking/teaching skills. 
Are these important? 
No one wants to listen to, or be taught by, a slob.  And if you speak like Ben Stein's character in Ferris Beuller's Day Off, no one will stay awake! 
You have GOT to learn and hone the skills of public speaking (Check out Lily's series on public speaking for great ideas).  But in doing so, I fear sometimes we forget that, in reality, the information you are presenting is the. most. important. part.
So, my challenge to you: As you speak and teach remember the parable of the waiter!  Remember that as important as it is that you relate to your audience, smile, tell compelling stories, and speak clearly, you are simply the vehicle to convey your information.
Speaking and teaching IS NOT about you!  Speaking and teaching is about conveying information that will benefit your audience.
Question: How does this parable affect how you look at speaking and teaching others?
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my musings.  If you find value in these posts, please subscribe to this blog and share this post with those around you!
Twitter: @Skropp2


  1. LOVE this post. Brilliant!!! I thought about it when I got to present EntreLeadership to my team. I think they liked the food! I think the server has a few things to work on. Truly, this mental picture has helped me tremendously in delivering a clear message. In my line of business, communication is 90% of what we do. If we fail there, we're doomed. Thanks for a wonderful post that I will remember frequently.

    1. Thanks Lily! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm pretty sure I've gotta credit the analogy to inspiration, it just kinda came to me all of a sudden. Maybe it's the start of a NY Times Bestseller.. Haha. Riiiiight.

  2. Great analogy Mark. It's essential to dress according to who you are talking with as well as sharing quality information.