Lessons from Wine Tasting

Updated: Apr 20

Below is an excerpt from chapter 1 from my new book, Clear, Concise & Compelling! Enjoy the read and check out the book on our page here.

“So, it’s settled. We’re off to northern California for three days of wine tasting! Thanks for being our tour guides.” Somehow an evening out with two couples ended up with my husband and me in charge of a long weekend getaway. Not that we objected. We’ve visited the wine country many times; it’s one of our favorite things to do. And we were looking forward to sharing some favorite wineries with our friends.


The planning process was fun. We made a list of our favorite places. Then we visited websites to explore additional vintners to add to our list. Because we only had three days, we planned on visiting seven wineries each day. After much deliberation, we narrowed the list to 21 wineries in the Sonoma region. Because our friends indicated they wanted to learn about winemaking, we also booked two stops with behind-the-scenes private tours focused exclusively on that craft.


Next, we mapped out each day to make sure we made the best use of time. We did our homework, picked two exceptional restaurants and made reservations for the

evenings we’d be there. After probably 30 hours of research and planning, it all came together. We even created an itinerary for each day with timing and information about each stop.


Day one was amazing. A beautiful northern California experience. The first three stops were right on schedule. The first behind-the-scenes tour was incredible with respect to the level of information we picked up. But then we started falling behind. Lunch took longer than expected. And the hosts at the tasting bars of the next two wineries were so engaging that it was four o’clock before we knew it. Our group decided they were done for the day.


That created a bit of a dilemma. Do we change our itinerary for the next two days to fit in the two places we missed on day one? We decided to ditch those and do better at staying on schedule on day two. No such luck. We accomplished our morning plan, hitting three terrific wineries. After lunch we made two more stops. But by mid-afternoon, our group was ready to relax by the pool.


On day three, we made it to only four of the seven wineries. As we sat in the airport waiting for our flight, we reflected on our wine getaway. While everyone loved the wineries we visited, we all agreed we tried to do too much in too little time. The group also decided that for the next trip, we needed to factor in time to enjoy some hiking and resting and spend a little less time on wine. Why didn’t all of our research and planning result in a perfect vacation? What went wrong? It turns out the focus of our trip was off. We didn’t do a good job of identifying exactly what our group wanted to accomplish on the trip and tried to do too much. We thought it was all about learning as much as possible about wine. In reality, we didn’t understand what they wanted to do. Our friends were more interested in a relaxing weekend with some great winery experiences rather than a weekend overstuffed with learning. We also learned that the in-depth private tours were way more than our friends wanted or needed. While they were great, our friends did not find it a good use of time.


So, my husband and I made a few notes to guide our planning for future trips:

  • What do our travel companions want to make it an unforgettable trip?

  • What experiences does our group want to have?

  • How much do they know about wine?

  • What do they want to learn?

  • What will contribute to them raving about the trip when they return?

  • What are their limitations? What would be too much?

As I reflected on what we learned from taking our friends on this trip, it occurred to me that leading a group on a journey is quite similar to what I teach clients about designing and delivering effective presentations.


An influential journey

Like a journey, good presentations are intended to accomplish something: provide new information to change thinking, get a commitment, secure a decision, obtain support or close a deal. Presentations are primarily about influence—defined as the power to change or affect someone or something without directly forcing it to happen. The presenter’s goal is to influence an outcome. To achieve this, you must...

  • Be clear: Know exactly where you want to take the audience—your influence objective

  • Be concise: Include only as much information as necessary

  • Be compelling: Understand the needs of the audience—why will they go on this journey with you?

Let’s take a quick look at each of these.


Be clear: Know exactly where you want to take the audience

Every presentation is an opportunity to take your audience with you to a specific destination. On our wine trip, we needed to narrow down the destination from learning about wine tasting to having a fun and relaxing weekend with friends that included wine tasting.


What is it that you want the audience to know, feel and do as a result of attending your presentation? What is the why of your presentation? It is important to be specific about this destination. Unfortunately, many presentations are more focused on the what. Average presenters do not have a specific influence objective for their presentations. Great presenters, on the other hand, design their entire presentation to accomplish their influence objective—it is made clear in the introduction, supported by foundational points in the body and driven home in the conclusion.


Include only as much information as necessary

In hindsight, it was easy to see that fewer wineries would have been a better design for our trip. Great presenters are careful not to present extraneous information. They present the right content in the right amount. They don’t try to do too much. The digital age is exploding with information. Because it is so easily accessible, it is tempting to include too much. Your challenge when designing a presentation is to determine what to include—and what to leave out. Average presenters overstuff their presentations with too much information. This leaves the audience wondering what is most important. Great presenters know that less is definitely more and better when it comes to

presenting influentially.


Understand the needs of the audience

On our wine trip, had we taken the time to understand what our friends already knew and what they wanted to learn about wine, we would have designed a very different experience! We needed to ask better questions. People who attend a presentation usually do so because they need something. They are looking to solve a problem, identify an opportunity or confirm their beliefs. Great presenters take the time and do the research to understand what the audience needs and wants relative to the presentation topic. They present in a way that reaches the audience by helping them solve their problem, understand your opportunity or provide evidence that confirms their beliefs.


Be clear, concise and compelling on purpose

Think about the last presentation you attended (or gave) that was only okay. Chances are that one or more of the following conditions existed:

  • The presenter lacked a specific objective

  • The presentation did not meet the needs of the audience

  • The presenter tried to do too much and included too much information

All too often in presentations like these, the presenter misses the opportunity to help the audience take away something useful, and also misses the chance to

be memorable for all the right reasons.


The good news is that everyone from nervous introverts to overpowering extroverts can develop influential presentation skills. Our workshop participants have proven year after year that these skills are learnable. We’ve seen incredible skill development with novices and seasoned presenters and entry-level to C suite professionals in marketing, sales, science, engineering and many other functions. This book distills down our experience into actionable steps that can transform anyone into a great presenter.


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