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What Do They Talk About After Your Presentation?

There was a famous woman on stage.  The protestors outside probably thought she was infamous.  The protestors inside unfurled a banner and hissed and grumbled.  On the drive home, my wife and I didn’t talk about any of these things.

Last night, my wife and I went to see education reform advocate (and former Washington, DC public schools chancellor), Michelle Rhee.  She offered statistics.  She presented her views and opinions on the types of reforms needed to improve school systems across the nation.  Driving home, my wife and I didn’t talk about any of these things either.

What we talked about were the stories she told.

She could have given some statistics or shared her philosophy on the challenges in making changes to low performing schools.  Instead, Ms. Rhee shared a story about a community in California that mobilized, raised and spent $750,000 in order to try to keep one floundering school open.

She could have offered statistics and studies that suggest “quality teachers” are the biggest factor in determining the quality of education that students receive.  Instead, Ms. Rhee told a story about visiting two classrooms across the hall from one another in Washington, DC.  In one classroom, a teacher had students jumping out of their chairs in order to answer questions about a book they had read.  In the classroom across the hall, the students were simply jumping out of their chairs and the teacher was flicking the lights on and off in a vain attempt at trying to instill some sort of order.

It’s only been a few hours since attending this event, but I don’t remember any of the statistics she presented.  I don’t remember many of her specific viewpoints.  Her stories will stick with me for a long time.  Her stories were what I’ll be talking about when someone asks: “How was the Michelle Rhee event?”  They connected with me.  They made the whole concept of education reform concrete for me.

What do you think people will remember, what do you think people will be talking about when they leave your next presentation?  Will it be your dazzling slide deck?  The compelling statistics you offer?  The engrossing theory you share?  Or perhaps the stories that can captivate your audience and that can be re-told when your learners return to their offices?

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