What a Gas Pump Can Teach You about Presentations

A typical gas pump

In the age of automation, when you pull into the gas station to fill up your tank with gas, you encounter a beep-filled presentation—and not a good one, either.

You put your credit or debit card in the card reader and the machine beeps at you: Credit or Debit? You press a button. Beep.

Another question: What’s your zip code? Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep as you punch in the numbers.

Beep. Next question: Do you want a car wash today?

Press no (or yes). The machine beeps again.

Finally, you fill up your tank and when finish and replace the pump handle in the pump, the machine beeps again. Question: Do you want your receipt.

If you answer no, you get a beep with a thank you on the pump’s screen; answer yes and you get a beep with a thank you.

By the time you hear that last beep, aren’t you more than a little irritated? I am. Here’s why: The beep is the same tone, over and over. It’s the identical sound for whether you are paying with credit or debit and when the machine thanks you. We don’t use the same words for “please” and “thank you.” Why should machines?

The larger point is when someone, or some thing, makes the same sound over and over all that sound creates is irritation. When you deliver a presentation using what I call a crutch word, an “uhm, err, uh,” and you use that over and over in your presentation it has the same effect as a machine beeping at you. It gets on the audience’s nerves—whether that’s an audience of one or 1,000. And that irritation grows as the presentation continues

Record your next practice session and notice if you use a word or a sound—usually unintentionally—over and over. If you do, identify that word or phrase. In my blog entry later this week, I’ll show you how to get rid of that irritating word or phrase.

As for the next trip to the gas station, sorry. You’re on your own. Beep.

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