As communications experts, we spend a great deal of time working with our clients on fine-tuning and perfecting their presentations. Everything from visuals to messaging, we make sure the speakers we work with are well versed, well equipped, and well prepared. As attendees at our share of conferences, we are moved and inspired by great presenters who can transport our minds to a higher place with their presentations. These ‘best practices’ become standards for our client work.
But let’s face it, we can learn from the glaringly bad presentations as well. And we witnessed our share of them in 2017.
In this spirit of learning, we bring you our version of 2017: Presentations Gone Bad. We swear, these really happened. And truthfully, these “Worst Practices” taught us more about successful speaking than any “helpful hints” or “best practices” ever could. We want you to reap the benefits of these cringe-worthy mishaps just as much as we have. So here are our Top 6 “What NOT to Do” when giving a presentation. You’re welcome.
#6. Don’t Alienate Your Audience
One of the first things we tell our speakers is to “Know your Audience.” Therefore, we were shocked when a speaker at a 2017 conference made several jokes at the expense of the audience. True, the topic was about millennials and he was a funny guy, but that doesn’t mean he had the permission to make fun of the Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers in the room. The audience was dismayed by the self-absorbed millennial who was so energized by his own presentation that he didn’t realize – or maybe didn’t care – that most of the audience was alienated, not entertained by his sharp remarks. So what if we still wear wrist watches and carry fancy pens?
#5. Don’t Throw Expletives at Your Audience
At a recent marketing conference, an energetic speaker engaged meeting attendees with his props, loud music (and dancing on the table) and bright ideas. He lost us, however, when he started dropping the F-bomb throughout his presentation. His use of profanities offended many and overshadowed his eloquent teachings.
#4. Don’t Put Your Audience to Sleep
There’s a reason why speakers are given time guidelines and specific topics to cover, as well as expected to rehearse. When you just read your slides verbatim and then drone on and on, going over the allotted time slot, you simply lose the attention of those in the room. So, as a speaker, if you look up and see people slumping in their chairs, closing their eyes, or busily swiping through emails on their phones, take a hint. Unless you’re a hypnotist, it may be time to wrap things up and get to the appetizers.
#3. Don’t Gross Out Your Audience (aka Bigger Is Not Always Better)
This tip can obviously cover a lot of sticky situations, but this one is focused on culinary presentations. When a hired chef attempted to break down a 30 lb bird that slipped and slid all over the counter, audience members were so grossed out that they turned their heads and made “yucky” faces. One kind man even ran up with some paper towels to catch the fluids running down the front of the table.
At yet another presentation, the speaker talked about his parents having “relations.” Yes, folks. These really happened.
#2. Don’t Monopolize the Q&A
Sometimes the best part of a session is the discussion period after the formal presentation. So when a moderator steps in to field questions from the audience, he should do just that. Seriously, field the questions. We witnessed a moderator so self-possessed that he answered each question himself rather than giving the expert speakers the opportunity to do so. To make matters worse, he cut off and (more than once) insulted the attendees asking the questions. We think he might need a refresher course in moderating.
And the #1 DON’T in our books for 2017 is….
#1. Don’t Disparage Your Sponsor
Seems obvious, right? Well, not for all speakers. We witnessed a presentation on behalf of a food sponsor, during which the presenter actually promoted the health benefits of eating patterns that excluded the sponsor’s food. Audience members were not only confused, but annoyed and dismissive. The speaker lost all credibility and opportunities for future sponsorship.
On the plus side, while at these conferences, we also saw numerous presenters that stayed on point, delivered valuable insights and sparked our creativity. We tip our hats to them and look forward to expanding our horizons next year.
For the bright spots of 2017, stayed tuned for our Best Presentations Of 2017!