The Scientist and the Chauffeur

[I first heard this story in a speech by Jerry Clower.]

A famous scientist was often called upon to give his signature lecture, and he had a chauffeur who drove him to his engagements. The chauffeur would always come in, sit at the back, and listen.

One day, the scientist was speaking at a place where no one had ever seen him before, so the chauffeur proposed a switch. “Why don’t we trade clothing,” the chauffeur said, “and I’ll deliver your lecture?  I’ve heard it enough times I feel pretty confident that I can give it as well as you can!”  The scientist agreed to the switch.

The chauffeur did a brilliant job while the scientist sat in the back of the room in the chauffeur’s uniform. After he concluded, however, there was time for questions and answers. The first question was highly technical, and, of course, the chauffeur had no idea what to say. Without missing a beat, however, he simply said, “That question is so elementary I think I’ll allow my chauffeur to answer it.”

William Henry Harrison

The following story is good to tell if you are discussing the importance of limiting your speaking time when delivering a presentation. We are very time- conscious in our culture and as a speaker you want to know how much time you have to speak. Staying within that time limit or perhaps even stopping a couple of minutes under the allotted time enhances your credibility.

The shortest presidency was that of William Henry Harrison who was elected in 1840. He delivered the longest inaugural address of any president—nearly two hours long. Unfortunately, he was not dressed for the cold and rain of March and came down with a cold. He became progressively ill and died on April 4, 1841, due to complications of pneumonia. His presidency lasted only 32 days. One might say he talked himself to death!

You could certainly add more detail if you needed to, but the brevity allows you to stress the point simply, humorously, and then move on.

The value of the historical example is that it gives your idea legitimacy and credibility and shows you can apply your expertise to other environments to make your point. As you read, look for events which you might develop into a historical story.