Why Fortune Cookie Wisdom frustrates me and what you can do about it

Fortune Cookie Wisdom dilutes the impact you want to make when you present to an audience.

When I was a kid we loved fortune cookies.

When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, my parents would take us out to try all sorts of cuisine.

Perhaps a foreshadowing of my future life in Asia, I always enjoyed going out for Asian food.  And at the end of the meal, in many Chinese restaurants, we’d get tea and fortune cookies.

And we all loved the fortune cookies.  Less to eat I’d say, and more because of the fun in cracking the cookie open and reading what the future held.

If I got a particularly good fortune, I might fold it up and stick it in my wallet.

Like a little good luck charm.


But the fortune inside a Fortune Cookie isn’t all that useful

The fortunes that come inside the cookies are packed with buzzwords.

Fate, riches, longevity, health, love, career.  Maybe a word or two on lucky numbers or colours.

But what those fortunes aren’t is useful.

I mean how much practical advice can a fortune cookie hold?

Not much.


Fortune Cookie Wisdom

Years ago I was moderating a panel session at a big CX Event in Asia.

Hundreds of people were out in the audience. Eager to learn, to be entertained or, ideally, both.

One of the Panellists in our session grabbed his mic tightly and began to spout every single buzzword going at the time.

His share is still a blur in my mind.

But if I had to mimic what he said to the audience it sounded like this:

“We need to connect to our purpose and remember that CX = EX.  Only then can our vision accelerate and digitalization will reinvent our core culture. Unleashed, ROI will rise up and create tangible benefits for all Stakeholders with less friction and more delight.”

And on and on.

I wasn’t sure if he was running for office.  Or if his big bosses were seated somewhere out in the audience and it was important to make his company look good.

But I was sure that no one in that audience was learning anything from what was being said.

The share was so generic and so 5,000 feet in the air that it lacked any practicality or useful lessons.

And right there, on that stage, a new term struck me.

Fortune Cookie Wisdom!

Information. Not insight.


Your talk should focus on your audience

I am convinced that the folks who make the effort to attend conferences, webinars, and events crave practicality. And I’m convinced that they also crave honesty and vulnerability.

If they could have easily googled the information you gave them, then they’re probably not getting what they hoped for or needed.

My favorite Presenters, on any topic, share their experience on what worked and what didn’t work.

What they got right and what they got wrong.

What they did and what they would do differently if given the chance.

Presenters like these don’t just demonstrate depth.  They serve our human need to hear stories and learn from them.


There’s lots of Fortune Cookie Wisdom out there

As a Trainer, Speaker and Emcee, I spend a lot of time at events.  And there’s still a lot of Fortune Cookie Wisdom out there.

Lots of buzzwords, statistics that anyone can google (1 in 5 people will neve come back!) and case studies about places like Amazon, Southwest Airlines and the Ritz Carlton though the Presenter hasn’t personally worked with or for any of those brands.

Information not insight.

Insight drawn from personal stories, lessons learned, mistakes made, successes achieved, what to do (or what not to do) and why.

All the things I think an audience member deserves.

It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking for the local Lions Club or you’re on a massive stage in a big city being broadcast to thousands.

When you’re invited to present to an audience, they are asking you to take a position of authority.

And with that authority I think we have a responsibility to do better than Fortune Cookie Wisdom.


We can always bring it down to Earth

I love the line, ‘be distinct or go home’.  It’s likely that you aim to make an impact.

I know I do.

So bring that topic from 5,000 feet in the air down to earth, make it personal, make it practical and help people benefit from what you what you’ve been through.

No one has your narrative but you.

I am sure they will appreciate it.


Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading this post!

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Daniel Ord

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel Ord speaks in Athens

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