Saying Thank you

Thanks for setting the bar so low

I’ve seen a lot of really, really awful presentations. But I always make the effort to thank the presenter, usually while everyone else is filing out the room, catatonic with boredom or mourning the hour that they will never get back.

A presentation at my work will usually happen in the following order. Five minutes after the start time everyone assembles in a meeting room. For a further five minutes the presenter struggles with the projector, their laptop, the network connection, the conference call etc. Eventually a series of slides displaying dense text are displayed which are read out. Eventually the meeting closes when the next person to have booked the room turns up. Everyone rushes out for their caffeine fix or toilet stop and the presenter is left to clear up the equipment.

Bad presenters make lots of mistakes – they forget the audience have bladders, they don’t get to the point and their use of PowerPoint would be unforgivable if it wasn’t so universally abused. But we should accept two things about presentations: 1. Writing a presentation is a lot of work, even a bad one; 2. Speaking in front of people isn’t as easy as it looks.

The worst thing that we can do after a bad presentation is to discourage the presenter. What motivation will they have to present again and begin to make improvements to their delivery?

A presenter may have poured hours of work into creating slides. They will often spend far too long creating slides and not enough time considering their key message or rehearsing. They will often choose the topics they are most passionate about or know intimately, despite their suitability, making any knock backs even more difficult to swallow.

One striking thing about delivering a speech at Toastmasters is the encouragement. After delivering my icebreaker I was overwhelmed with congratulations and positive feedback. Months afterwards people still mention that they enjoyed my speech and say they’re looking forward to the next one.

Perhaps working in computing, and industry renowned for social awkwardness, is the reason I see so many thankless presentations. Perhaps in marketing and PR departments, praise in bestowed on anyone willing to put themselves in front of a room full of people. But I doubt it.

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One Comment

  1. Mo
    Posted March 23, 2009 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    People can be such dicks. They need to get over themselves. People always put effort into a presentation so people should be grateful. It’s unproductive to just say it was poorly done. I’m all for constructive criticism. People forget simple manners. It’s not hard to do it.

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