3 presentation tips you can learn from rude taxi drivers

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Rome. Love it or leave it. I left it a few years ago, but I still love it deeply. Even with all its contradictions it can be a great place to be. As long as you don’t need to move around too much.

You see: walking, strolling with a gelato is the perfect thing to do in Rome. But recently I was there on business. And this means I was zipping back and forth on a taxi to various appointments.

If you had a first hand experience of Rome’s taxis you already know that the drivers here are far from polite. Here’s three tales from the eternal city that tell us that powerful principles can be learned also from rude taxi drivers.

1. Don’t provide metadata: first of all, in case you don’t know it, metadata is a set of data that describes other data, in other words, a description or extra information. During the trip, he underlined the driving style of every single other car driver of Rome. According to him, everyone misbehaved on the road, apart from him naturally, and you know who are the real a-holes? Everyone with a German car… Enough with this!

My goal was: getting from a to b. Did the metadata help reach the goal? Not a bit!

This happens a lot in presentations. Some people come on stage and start complaining about various things.  About a fault in their computer, a projector that doesn’t work quite right, a microphone that they don’t know how to use.

When a presenter behaves this way, they are no different from the bad mannered taxi driver. It’s plain unprofessional, so don’t do it!

Photo by: Robert Lowe (some rights reserved)

2. Adapt the environment to your audience: taxi drivers have their own multimedia environment. Namely their car stereo. If you are in Rome that is set to some trashy talk radio that discusses soccer. There are two main teams, and – as you can imagine – two opposing radios.

This sound scape is imposing and – if anything – should be negotiated with the customer beforehand.

You can do the same with the language that you use and with your slides.  You could choose the wrong imagery, the wrong colors, set the wrong tone and communicate in the wrong way with your audience. Try to see your slides with their eyes to avoid this pitfall.

3. Don’t take anything for granted: at the end of the ride the driver decided to give himself a tip. Let me explain. I asked for a receipt and the driver thought: “this person here is on expenses, this is not out of his pocket, let’s charge him some more.” So he proposes the new price. I push back. He goes: “Hey man, what price should I put?” I have to reply: “The price that says on the meter. Duh!”

You can do the same mistake during your presentation. Don’t make assumptions on behalf of others, don’t give your own response to all the questions. Don’t assume you have the insight or information: ask and then listen.

Remember the behavior of the roman taxi driver when you need to give the next presentation:


  • Don’t provide metadata,
  • Sync the environment/mood with your audience,
  • And don’t take stuff for granted.

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