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Lessons Learned in Florence, Italy – When our messages don’t translate to our audiences

One night in 2005, a girlfriend and I were taking in the sights and sounds of Florence, Italy. We were seniors in college. She was studying abroad in France and I, being a thoughtful and supportive friend, decided she couldn’t be alone for Christmas and New Years.


The night was dark as we aimlessly walked around the narrow cobblestone streets of Florence. The strands of Christmas lights strung above the tiny shops glowed on the wet stones below.  It was magical, to say the least.


Until I had to find a restroom.


Then we were on a mission. After weaving our way through the streets, we found a small restaurant where I asked the bartender if I could use the water closet. (For those of you who don’t know, Europeans call bathrooms ‘water closets’, or WC for short.) To my surprise, he didn’t understand. Thus a two minute game of charades and gestures began, until finally he exclaimed, “OH! Bathroom!”




You might be asking, ‘How does this apply to our presentation lives?” Sometimes we have the best intentions to communicate clearly to our specific audiences, and despite our best efforts, our messages don’t translate. Our audiences feel disconnected and we struggle to deliver our next slide, or idea, in confidence.


If you’ve attended our programs,  you know that meaningful gestures, good eye contact, vocal variety, and using movement adds energy and interest to your message. If you see your audience ‘slipping’, dial these up and deliver in confidence. It’s hard to ignore a dynamic speaker (think Steve Jobs). Even if this isn’t natural for you, it can come more easily with practice. But remember, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about developing these skills and being authentic, so that your audience remembers you and your message.


Bonne chance! (That’s French for ‘good luck’, or so I think.)



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