Serious presentation mistakes… aka Presentation unconscious incompetence

Cautionary note – this particular presentations blog is a bit of a personal rant, not the usual fact-based stuff I do. 🙂

No, just no – presenters so bad they don’t know they’re bad! 🙂

I attended a networking/coaching session recently where I was the guest speaker. To save blushes I’ll not name the organisation, but there were a number of things I noted going wrong that the host of the session didn’t even know weren’t right. Some things the problems became pretty public, of course, such as my reaction to having my name spelled wrongly on their introduction slide (not just spelled wrongly, to be honest, just the wrong name). Other things simply flew over the hosts’ heads in a way that showed they hadn’t a clue about how to make a better presentation.

Before I get on to the subtle things – and eventually to my main point in this blog, stay with me! – let’s just take a moment to appreciate the comedy of errors that were obvious.

  • standing in front of the screen. Surely no one does that. Oh, wait.. yes they do. Almost every amateur presenter does it at some point and this night was no exception. The host seemed to be part moth, judging by how much of the projector’s light she was drawn to.  A paragraph-long-joke about how good looking the network’s founder is might have worked better if I could see the photograph of him on the screen
  • getting my name wrong.  ‘nuff said, really.   Not only was it a pretty bad issue of itself, but it effectively screamed to anyone there that the host hadn’t even bothered to hit my website and therefore had no idea at all of who I was
  • spending the first 20 minutes of the meeting to sell: that’s when people are most impressionable, so it irked the presenter and trainer in me to see it wasted like that. Besides, why would anyone in the audience buy membership to an organisation when they’d not seen any content provided by that organisation yet?! There’s a better chance to sell once I’d done my thing – and it also set a bad atmosphere in the room for when I started to present
Okay, so now I’ve got those things off my chest, and I can calm down a little, here are a few, less-obvious irks of the night:
  • music – background music while people come in to the meeting and informally network/chat isn’t necessarily a bad idea as it can cover up awkward silences, but it needs just a little bit of thought about what music to play. You can’t please all the people all the time, but a selection of current chart songs with obscene lyrics isn’t a good plan!
  • music again – this time the licence.  Or lack thereof to play the music!
  • screen ratio – crudely put, screens for slides come in two aspect rations (width to height). The older standard is 4:3 (that is, almost square) and newer kit tends to use 16:9. Neither is a problem (though 16:9 is more attractive) but when the hosts slides were designed for 16:9 and shown on a projector using a 4:3 ration bits of the text kept falling off the edge of the screen and other bits were distorted. Not that the host new that because they’d not checked anything.   Mind you, as it was all sales stuff (see above!) it didn’t matter, as no one was looking or listening anyway  😉
  • projector placement – if your’e in a proper venue the projector will be fixed. For a lot of places however, the standard is still a data projector on a table in front of a portable screen, as it was for this venue. It’s not great and it’s a pain for presenters, but it’s cope-with-able… but not if you don’t think to move the table away from the screen. Having the table closer to the screen than it needs to be means your projected stuff is smaller than it needs to be – and therefore harder to read. Rookie error!
  • Facebook live-ing – putting stuff on Facebook, particularly live, is big at the moment.  No problem. Doing it without checking with your speaker first is just rude, especially as I’d been promised confidentiality.   Will I go back and do more work for this organisation?  No.
  • blaming the audience for not being there – this one made me laugh. There weren’t many people there, which was a shame, as the host had done quite a bit of work to get people to come along and she was frustrated in particular about people who said they were coming but didn’t… however, starting off the evening by saying (I’m paraphrasing) “You can’t help some people. Apparently being the best version of themselves they can be with a bit of personal development isn’t important to them. Some people are happy to be stuck”.  You can imagine what an atmosphere that creates for the audience who are there! How can you trust someone who bad-mouths people in public like that?!

Don’t get me wrong, the evening was fun, the host lovely and the organisation well meaning… but is it likely that either I or the few people in the audience who were there are going back?

So what’s the presentation deal here?

To be honest, it’s a problem I hit over and over again. Most presentations are so bad that people don’t know what a good presentation looks like and therefore haven’t got a clue that what they’re doing – and getting – isn’t how it should be.

What am I doing about it other than this rant?  I’m feeding back to the organiser. It’s no one’s fault that the standard is so low and there are so few role models around.  People can’t improve if they don’t know there’s a better way.

What about your next presentation?

Don’t think of how it went. Think of how it could have gone.  Imagine the perfect presentation. Write that down. Now have a cup of tea.  When you’ve come back, as yourself what you need to do to make that happen.   It’s not rocket science, honestly.  😉

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