Learning From Restaurants

West Restaurant Salad

Happy 2014! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday with friends and family. Myself, I’m still scratching my head and wondering where 2013 went.

As I was trying to fall asleep the other night, my mind started to wander towards the upcoming Dine Out Vancouver Festival and my experiences during the same event in the prior year. During that period (I went to roughly ten restaurants in two weeks) some of the restaurant service experiences still stick out in my mind:

I still remember attending WEST with my mother, and never having an empty water glass, nor an empty bread basket because the waiters/waitresses were that attentive to ALL their tables.

I remember dining at BLACK & BLUE where the waiter took me on a guided tour and proudly informed me the third floor patio would be open by the summer of 2012. (I am tempted to think he mistakenly thought I was a journalist on assignment, instead of some poor soul that was dining alone on a weeknight). I also remembered the waiter offering to provide me with more light to read my menu (as the interior was quite dark) but I politely declined; he was essentially offering to use his lighter next to the paper menu.

Last but not least, I fondly remember ORU (Fairmont Pacific Rim) where the waiter wished me a good evening and addressed me by my name. In my opinion I thought that was a very nice touch by the staff: it made me feel like I a restaurant regular, instead of someone dining there for the very first time.

How do restaurant experiences relate to public speaking?In those two weeks I went to some of the best known names in the city. While the food in itself was delicious, what really made these restaurants memorable for me was the service. In particular, it was the little unique things that really stood out.

Consider if I made the analogy between restaurants, and speeches. If food was the context, and service was speech delivery, what would make a great speech? Would you agree if I said most of us judge our overall dining experience on a combination of food and service, as most of us here do not write restaurant reviews for a living nor are we food connoisseurs? Even when a restaurant needs to provide excellent customer service, there are still unique things each restaurant can do (under that vast umbrella) to stand out on their own.

If you speech content is great, great speech delivery will still be an asset. For example, every good speaker will advise you audience connection is recommended (just like restaurants will understand the same about good customer service). But how do you establish audience connection? A common tip would be to open your speech with a question to the audience. But what type of question do you ask, and how should you ask it? Another great tip is to ask the question to the entire audience, but phrase it in a way that asks it to one person. For example the question would not be “Who went on vacation this year?” but rather “Have you gone on vacation this year?” This was a tip I learned from Craig Valentine but at the moment I cannot find the actual video where he describes this technique.

Even stopping at the point above, there are still unique things each speaker can do to incorporate audience connection via asking a question. You can ask for the audience to answer by a show of hands. You can pick one audience member at random and ask them to answer the question. Or you can pre-pick someone in the audience, based on what they do or do not know about you. I tested this out at a recent speech at my club where I had pre-picked the poor “victim” David, based on the fact he was a newer member and likely knew the least about me. (See the video here).

Bottom line? There will always be broad techniques every speaker will use (and need to use) to deliver a great speech. But never be afraid to tweak it to make it more of our own.

Edit: A huge thank you to Craig Hadden at Remote Possibilities, whom found the article I was referring to: http://www.craigvalentine.com/use-the-hallway-test-for-a-deeper-audience-connection. Thank you Craig!

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2 thoughts on “Learning From Restaurants

    • Thank you very much Craig for your comment and your help. That is the exact article by Craig Valentine I was referring to (but was unable to locate when I was writing the post). You’re great!

      P.S. If I recall correctly, I think it was you who first referred me this article.

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