This is gonna be harsh, so if you’re easily offended, please click away now.
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I took this picture, as I sat in the back of the room in this room - near the exit, (AKA escape hatch), only because I had a feeling this presentation was going to be awful. I don’t even think the speaker knew I was taking this picture, but if they were, they were likely thinking it was because of the awesome slide she thought she had up on the screen. But tragically, it wasn't the case.
This was one of the worst presentations I’ve ever been to.
Don’t look too hard here to see if you can recognize the speaker, or the conference, because the sadder truth is that this could be a lot of speakers at many conference presentations in the world. Deathly boring. 62 slides of info-barf. Transmitting information everyone knows about already, and by assuming the audience doesn’t know, you’ve demonstrated your lack of interest in us from the get-go. And worse, your attempts at jokes have fallen flat.
Notice most people are on their phones, on facebook - or maybe tweeting about how bad this presentation is. Maybe they were doing their shopping or making weekend plans. But likely most everyone, except those sitting in front were there in body only.
Your presentation is telling a story - whether you’re the architect of that story or not. In many cases, like this one - it’s a tragic story, a story about a person who’s had a long career doing a very specific thing, for a rather large organization, and is enjoying their time up front, in the limelight, talking in cryptic terms, using acronyms only to maintain their illusion of superiority over those who don’t know what they mean. They ask questions like, “Are there any questions?” And when not surprisingly no one responds, because they don’t want to humiliated by the speaker in case she doesn’t want to answer it, she thinks she’s done such a good job communicating that there are just no questions. But the sad truth is that everyone has tons of questions about the topic but the presenter hasn’t created an atmosphere of learning.
She thinks that she has information in her PowerPoint that everyone wants, but fails to realize that that same information is already searchable with a keyword or three on Google, even faster than she can deliver any of the information in her slides. She fails to know what the group of souls in the room have come to her presentation to learn about, and doesn’t even ask for a show of hands about it before diving into the dross of details.
When a brave participant raises their hand to ask a question, that person is publicly shamed, being told to hold their question till the end - which by the way, that person lost their motivation and interest to ask that question shortly after the public beat-down.
And perhaps tragically of all, when we got to the “Thank You” slide, when the applause wrapped up the talk, the applause wasn’t because it was a great presentation, but because of the collective relief that the dreadful experience was over.
Been there? Anyone? Anyone?
But the story doesn’t have to end this way. There is a better way. The truth is out there.