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Setting Expectations: You’re Going to Love This!

The other day I attended a Christmas pageant put on by amateur actors. Before the pageant started, the emcee said, "This is such a wonderful pageant. You are going to love it!"

Last month I decided to patronize a business whose slogan calls it the "world's greatest" of its kind. 

A couple of years ago, my teenage daughter was asked to play the violin for a senior citizens center. The director of the center, who had heard my daughter play, described her in the program flyer as a child prodigy.

In all three of those situations, the audience was told in one way or another "You're going to love this!" What do you think happened?

Unfortunately, expectations were set too high. They were nearly impossible to meet, even in the best circumstances.

Pageant-goers had been primed for a life-changing holiday experience. Nevertheless, it was a typical Christmas pageant with enthusiastic actors reading from their scripts, a few missed cues and awkward handoffs, and a hopeful message. 

Before visiting the "world's greatest" business, I phoned to ask a question. I expected to be wowed by an efficient, friendly person answering my call. Instead I got a long "Push 1, Push 2" type of greeting. Even when I pushed 0 to talk to someone, a recording asked me to leave a message.  

When my daughter entered the elevator at the senior center, she was horrified to see the flyer describing her as a prodigy. (She is not one.) She played self-consciously. Audience members frowned and fidgeted.

"You're going to love this!" is a perfect setup for disappointment.

As a business communicator, you can reduce audience disappointment by setting appropriate expectations:

  • When you introduce a presentation, product, or service, you can describe it accurately–with facts, not with hyperbole.
  • You can use testimonials that describe one person's positive experience rather than stating assumptions like "You'll love it!"
  • You can give customer benefits rather than just bragging. For example, you can describe what makes the business great for the customer.

Have you been disappointed by exaggerated claims or an introduction that raised your expectations too high?

Have you devised effective ways to describe your product or service accurately while building excitement?

Please share your experiences.

Syntax Training 

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

6 comments on “Setting Expectations: You’re Going to Love This!”

  • I have seen many of these tall claims in paper backs. What is claimed as “an absolute page turner”, “riveting” most probably end up being boring stuff marketed by paid critics.

  • Lynn,
    Thanks for another useful blog post!

    As a professional speaker and presentation skills coach, I coach speakers to avoid the problem of the overly glowing introduction by controlling the situation before they show up to present. It’s crucial to write your own introduction, review it with the person who will introduce you and ask that he/she read it as written.

    If, after all that preparation, you still get introduced as “the greatest speaker in the world,” realize that you did everything you could to prevent the situation and either acknowledge it briefly with a funny line, such as “wow, sounds like my mom wrote that introduction!” or just move into your prepared talk and do the best job possible.

    See my blog post, 5 Tips for Creating a Crisp & Memorable Introduction, for more tips.

  • Hello, Palani. I too have been disappointed by comments on book jackets. One I recently read praised the “shock and afterschock” of the book’s ending. On the last page, I was still waiting for the shocks. Very disappointing!

    Thank you for commenting.


  • Hi, Gilda. Thank you for the excellent advice and link to your helpful blog post.

    Being introduced as a great speaker is very intimidating for all but a very few of us. I appreciate it when someone adds to my introduction a statement such as “I always learn valuable tips from Lynn,” which I feel sets an appropriate expectation.


  • Lynn, Love this post. Like Gilda, I am a professional speaker and have purposely written my introduction to be short. I feel that “the taste is in the pudding” and I would rather have the audience decide whether or not I’m a good speaker. Books and audio/video products can be trickier, yet, again, it is whether or not they get purchased and if buyers come back for more.

  • Hi, Funny Motivational Speaker. Thank you for your comment. It appears that you do set the expectation that you will be funny. I hope you are able to deliver!


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