What Wine-Tasting Can Teach Us About Engaging Presentations

One of us lives in San Francisco. So when it was time for the six of us university girlfriends to get together to celebrate our milestone birthday, the Napa Valley was a natural destination. During the trip, we spent a day on winery tours—of course.

By the third winery, I have to admit that I was pretty much done tasting wine! (Who’d have thought!) I was not really looking forward to the next one, but when you’re with a big group, you just go with the flow.

When we stepped out of our minibus at winery number three, it was immediately different from the other experiences. Tom, our guide came out to greet each of us with a warm, two-handed handshake. After escorting us to a lovely, shaded garden, he poured us our first taste. He then proceeded to wow us with his passion for wine and his extensive expertise. We spent two glorious hours with Tom. All of us were mesmerized by his insights and stories.

I was so inspired by Tom that I returned the next day to interview him. When I meet a great presenter, I can’t help it—I want to explore their thinking!

“I bet you love your job more than the others,” I said to him.

“I LOVE my job,” he said. I think I am the luckiest guy in the world!”

“And you likely sell more wine than the others too”, I added.

“Yes”, he said, “about three times as much.”

“Three times as much as he sells?” I asked, pointing to another guide.

“No, no – 3 times all of the other tour guides combined! On a good day, I’ll sell 12 times as much as everybody else.”

You can pretty much judge the success of a wine tasting presentation by the amount of wine sold following the presentation. That made Tom the most successful tour guide at the winery – and perhaps in the entire Napa Valley.


“But I’m not giving a presentation or selling,” he added.

So what was Tom doing?

We bought zero wine from the first two wineries, but at Tom’s winery we left with over 3,000 dollars’ worth. We fell in love with Cliff Ledde winery and learned so much about how to enjoy good wine. How did he earn our trust and engage us so completely that we left with cases full of wine? We left feeling like he had given us a tremendous gift!

Here are the top three presentation lessons from my new friend Tom.

  1. Less is more
    Tom clearly knew everything there was to know about the winery—the grapes, the wine-making process, the technology—but he knew that if he overwhelmed us with facts, we would stop listening. Instead, he carefully pared down the information he shared so we would be more likely to engage with it. Tom told me that for maximum impact, he only shares a few minutes of information at a time before he asks a question or engages an audience member.
  2. Trigger emotion
    To break up the material and keep us engaged, Tom used techniques that created emotional reactions from the guests. Throughout the tour, he told stories, offered testimonials, and shared creative metaphors and similes. His most effective emotional tool? Humor. Tom knew how to keep his audience’s attention by making us laugh. And he made us comfortable enough to contribute to the humor. Granted, maybe the wine helped here too!
  3. Listen to the audience
    Even though Tom had truckloads of information to share, he listened first. He asked us about our lives so he could understand our interests and determine which facts and stories would be most relevant to us. He also asked us about the foods we eat so he could offer wine pairings that we would enjoy. And what price point we were comfortable with for our bottles.

Foundational to Tom’s presentation techniques was his mindset. Tom wasn’t presenting information—he was engaging us. He was sharing his passion with us. He experienced so much joy from wine and the art of wine making, that he wanted to share it with us to enhance our lives. His mindset of serving, sharing, and inspiring made all the difference.

What about you? Is your presentation a gift to your audience and the patients they serve?

Do you go into your presentations with passion, focused on the purpose?
Do you focus your goal?
Do you use emotion tools before logic to trigger their interest?
Do you listen to the audience to cater your information to helping them solve their patient problems?

If follow Tom’s rules, you will forever transform how you present. By making a few changes, your presentations can become a gift for your audience—like a bottle of fine wine.

This article is an excerpt from The Elite Speaker Academy, a learning experience from Excellerate. Click here to learn more about the program.

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