I’ve been polling audiences and clients for many years now about their views on presentations. Unsurprisingly, the majority of them can only point to a handful of great teachers, lecturers, presenters or speakers that they have encountered in a lifetime. In this arena, as in every other, the bell curve rules.
Okay then, I ask, what are the cardinal errors you see the other 90% of presenters making? Now on this question I get as many answers as there are stars in the sky, but certain themes do emerge and the most common causes for complaint are:
  • Too much information – the presenter tries to tell you everything he knows rather than just the few things you need to know.
  • Reading the slides – this really seems to irritate audiences, who feel that this makes the presenter irrelevant and the presentation a complete waste of time. [I feel somewhat more strongly about this. As George Carlin says, “I don’t have pet peeves, I have major psychotic hatreds!”]
  • Too long – this is probably more a factor of other weak elements combining to have the audience shifting in their seats. Time really is relative here and a poor presenter can make 20 minutes feel like an aeon.
  • No passion – a lacklustre, lifeless presenter can just suck the energy right out of a room. You attended because the topic is fascinating and the blurb on the website looked really interesting, and here you are with Eeyore droning on at the top of the room …
  • The sage on the stage – yes, we like to be informed, but we also want our chance to air our views. Too many presenters shy away from any degree of interaction with their audience, leaving just a few minutes for Q&A at the end of the session.

All presentation gurus bang on about preparing well before any public speaking exercise. Once again, I ask the question – why do so few presenters do this? Why do the vast majority of presentations just suuuuuuck?

In the second of my series about presenting, I’ve dropped some of my thoughts on living according to the Boy Scout motto down onto Slideshare. See if this strikes a chord with you …

[RSS readers may need to click through to see the file. It’s a Slideshare thing – sorry]

As ever, comments, rotten fruit, ideas [please!], corrections and counter-arguments are all gratefully welcomed.