Don’t Tell Me That You’re Standing Between Me and Lunch

You may have seen a speaker or someone at a conference say this, or you may have even said it yourself. “Well, I know I’m the only thing between you all and lunch, but I promise this will be worth it!” Or “…so I better get started.” Or some other version of this seemingly light-hearted remark.

I found myself having a meandering train of thought about this common occurrence yesterday. What I found myself wondering was, why do I think this is a bad idea? I do encourage speakers and presenters to be transparent, and even to name the elephant in the room. Generally, I like it when speakers have a certain informality, when it’s appropriate. 

So what’s my problem?

When a speaker says, even humorously, “I know I’m standing between you and lunch,” they are doing themselves and the audience a disservice.

First, if the audience wasn’t already thinking about lunch, they are now! Unless the morning sessions have run so far over that it is now actually lunchtime (which is a different problem), they are all adults who have planned to be in this talk or presentation. The presentation isn’t about lunch, or the time between now and lunch, so this wastes time and distracts the audience. 

Second, this kind of comment is often calculated to give the speaker some leeway. The implication is: “I know you’re already thinking about the salad bar, so I’m just going to run through my remarks and we’ll all get out of here.”  The speaker is giving the audience permission to start to check out so that they can phone in the presentation.

If you notice you’re on the agenda right before lunch, what should you do instead of drawing everyone’s attention to that fact? Ask yourself: What do you really want to say? How do you want to affect your audience? What experience can you create for the audience that makes them forget lunch is even a thing?

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