BadVice is the (usually well-meaning advice given by amateurs and WikiTrainers) when someone says they have a presentation coming up and want to know what to do. It’s the blind leading the blind. You’d not ask any old random stranger in the pub for legal advice about moving house, or about how to tune your car for the race you’ve suddenly got to do next week, would you? Seriously? If you do, you deserve to risk going to court and you certainly deserve to lose the race.
So what makes us think that random strangers can give us useful advice on presenting? At the best it’s what works for them – which might not be what works for you. At worst it’s downright unhelpful, often wrong and sometimes not even legal!
I’ve got a few examples here for a laugh 🙂
Where do I start with this one? For a start, the horror of some of the audiences I’ve faced would have me gibbering off the back of the stage thinking HPLovecraft’s Cthulhu was coming true! 🙂
More importantly (and seriously) it’s just disrespectful. If you can’t treat your audience as professionals, why should they treat you as a professional too? Still, it might be fun, sometimes. (Common variations on this involve underwear! 🙂 )
This is another common one in my experience. The act of sipping the water might buy you time to think before a tricky question but it won’t stop your mouth feeling dry – because as soon as you open it, the cold of the water causes evaporation. Far better – assuming the problem is a dry mouth – to use the techniques of squeezing gently with your molars etc. Of course, if the intention is to buy time while you think go ahead but know it only works once (maybe twice!) before your audience sees through it. Beware! Besides, it takes a brave presenter to have water next to their laptop 😉
Nothing actually wrong with this one, it’s just a bit pointless! If the person needing the advice could do that they’d not be asking for the advice in the first place, surely! It’s about as useful as telling me to be able to jump higher by saying “spend more time in the air”. Let’s face it, it’s a waste of electrons and is just here to make the person offering the advice feel like they’ve done something. Anything. Anything at all. No matter what or how inane. Next thing you know they’ll click ‘like’ on a facebook post calling for World Peace and think it’s going to happen because of them.
Now this one is more like it. The author is right, it’s important not to over practice. The snag is that as a professional, full time presentation skills trainer the number of times I’ve seen over-rehearsed presenters is, not to be too crude, zero. Squat. Nadda. Don’t confuse stiff and bored with over-rehearsed. All too often this advice is offered by someone trying to cover up the fact that they don’t prepare enough, don’t practice and just wing it. Someone put them out of my misery, please!
The answer is is a definite ‘maybe’. Frankly, there are some presenters who shouldn’t be allowed to be themselves anywhere, let alone in public! 😉 However, while it’s no doubt well meant, it’s not all that useful – particularly for Introverts, socially awkward people or shy people. The ‘real them’ wouldn’t be on the damned stage in the first place. What these people need is a kind of metaphorical mask they can wear when presenting, so that they can present.
Alcohol, eh? Absolutely. Definitely. It certainly does. In the same way as it makes you a better driver. It probably makes you better in bed, too. And increases your IQ. (Actually, scratch that one: for this person that might be true.)
Maybe they were joking.
No. Just no. People need eye contact to feel that you’re a real person they can trust. Take that away and you undermine your credibility. What’s more, the chances of you doing this without looking more than a little odd are about the same as the Nigerian Prince who’s asked for my bank details so he can send me $5,000,000 being genuine.
On top of that, of course, this just isn’t a natural thing to do and trying to do it just gives the poor old presenter something extra to think about – the very last thing they need!
Finally, of course, how are you going to judge what you need to say if you’re deliberately trying to avoid feedback. Good look spotting if they’re confused if you’re not looking at them. Oh, I know, perhaps you could turn the lights off but look at them instead… no.. wait…
The description of this that professionals have is “Tell ’em how you’re’ going to bore ’em; bore ’em; tell ’em how you’ve bored ’em.”
To be blunt, no one size fits all approach is ever going to work. You need to plan each presentation according to what you’re trying to change with it, and why your audience is there. Structure in your presentations is great, in that it helps your audience concentrate on your content, but simplistic BadVice like this doesn’t serve people well, generally. Of course, it might be just the right structure for your presentation – but if you’re consistently that lucky you should be a professional poker player, not a presenter.
Oh look! Another pervert.
Free templates are free for a reason. And that reason isn’t to make your presentation the best it can be. Nope, sorry to burst your bubble. Frankly most of them are tosh and those that aren’t are too common to be worth your time.
What’s more, the chances of you finding a template that fits your exact needs is well… let’s say the Nigerian Prince is looking more likely than ever.
More bubble bursting. While it’s true that audiences are rarely actively hostile (until you waste enough of their time to make them regret coming! 😉 ) they’re not exactly on your side, either. They’re there thinking “What’s in it for me?”. You shouldn’t assume they’re on your side as this risks you falling into all kinds of traps to do with things like how much work you’re prepared to do and how you think you should deliver the information. Your job is to serve your message and your audience: how can you do this if you think they’re in one frame of mind but they’re actually in another?!?!
Actually I know where this advice is coming from and it’s very well meant – it’s trying to be supportive for nervous speakers – but few good things come from fibbing to people (unless you’re a politician trying to get elected).
Finally, a friend of mine called Steve (another pro speaker) responded to me saying that I was doing this blog with an example of his own. Let’s face it… if someone isn’t going to be impressed by Steve being introduced as someone who sold a £300m company, they’re not going to be impressed by a suit – unless all that money was spent on the suit, perhaps?
So then, gentle reader…
- Have I been too harsh? What do you want to argue about? 🙂
- What’s the best BadVice you’ve ever got?