Endurance Test: Suffering in the Name of Good Manners

skyeteam leadership development

Show of hands please… how many of you have attended (endured) a bad presentation lately?  It is fascinating to consider how many bad presentations are delivered by bad presenters every day in corporate America.  Sometimes the material is bad, sometimes the visuals are bad, sometimes the presenters are bad.  And what do we, the long-suffering audience, do about it?  Nothing.  We’re polite.  At least on the surface.  We sit and nod, trying to keep our eyes open and our heads from falling right of our necks.  Beneath the surface we’re texting and IM-ing each other with “holy cow” and other less G-rated remarks.

Do you ever wonder if bad presenters know how bad they are?  I don’t think they do, otherwise that would mean they’re just cruel people.  So what to do?  Try offering the following advice:

  1. Never wing it.  You may be an expert in your subject area.  You may be passionate about your message.  And still, when the words come out of your mouth, nothing sounds as captivating as it did when it was still inside your head.  There is no substitute for preparation.  No shortcut.  Even for “informal” presentations.  Sorry.
  2. Always respect your audience.  I think many bad presenters are bad because they’re presenting to audiences they know very well.  This leads to a certain complacency, and woefully wrong assumptions about the audience’s willingness to dig for the message.  “They know I’m not a professional.”  “They’ll pay attention because they know the message is important.”  “They’ll pay attention because I’m the boss.”  Engagement or endurance?  I think we both know the answer to that one.  That look of interest on their faces is really their fascination at what a bad presenter you are.

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  3. Use visuals judiciously, not viciously. PowerPoint is not your friend. I think it was created by the “Dr. Evil” of presentation skills, to lure unsuspecting (and well-meaning) presenters into showing slide after slide after slide of stuff no one cares about, while commenting “I know you can’t read this, but…”  Wow.  Really?  Don’t do that.
  4. Finally and most importantly, consider what kind of presentation would engage YOU.  You know what it looks like.  It just takes discipline, (and did I mention preparation?) and a desire to deliver a relevant message in a way the audience can understand it and do something with it.

I realize you may not be in a position to just hand someone this blog post and wish them good luck.  Send it in an anonymous email.  Leave a copy on the person’s desk.  Or, just do the right thing and save them from themselves.  Remember, they know not the suffering they inflict.