Good vs. Great
I’ve spoken at a lot of conferences. I really have no idea if my presentations are good or not. I’m usually talking about such scintillating subjects as podcasting and working with brands. And a lot of it is in Q&A form, which is hard to mess up (unless you call for questions and get crickets…awkward!).
I’ve seen presentations that are good and I’ve seen presentations that are great. And what separates the good from the great is sometimes hard to put your finger on. Many people have written worthwhile posts about how to have a great presentation, and I can’t top those, so google them.
But what I can tell you is how to not have a terrible presentation.
Honestly, I don’t care if a presentation is good or great. Both are fine. One might leave me more inspired, but I go to conferences more for hard info than for inspiration. Send me out the door with some actionable info, and I’m good. See? I’m easy.
And every once in a while I do come across a presentation with no info, but that’s rare. The last one that comes to mind was about making great YouTube videos, and the presenter had a huge studio behind her that did everything. Almost every question was answered with “Well, I don’t do that part of it, so I don’t know.” It was pretty awful.
But that’s not the kind of bad presentation I’m talking about.
Over the years I’ve seen some bad presentations, and they all had two things in common: They contained good information, and the presenters spent more time telling me how bad the presentation was than giving me the information.
It’s tragic, really. You’ve got something to say, and you think you won’t be good at saying it, so you point that out to the audience…over and over again.
Self-Deprecation Ad Nauseum
I saw one recently where the presenter apologized in the beginning for not being the best public speaker in the world. Totally OK, in my opinion. Say it, let people know that you’re nervous and not entirely in your element, and hopefully they’ll be on your side. But then she kept returning to that theme over and over and over again.
And look, if she’d actually been a decent presenter, it might have been a funny running joke. But since she wasn’t actually a very good presenter, it was just cringe-worthy.
She had some good info in her presentation, but she spent so much time putting herself down that eventually I stopped listening, because I was just too uncomfortable.
She ended the session by yelling “Self-deprecation for the win!” The problem is, self-deprecation only works if you’re being funny, not if you’re making people squirm in their seats and feel sorry for you.
Not Rolling With The Punches
I remember another session where the presenter thought he’d be in a room with a round-table setup, and a lot of his presentation (including slides) were geared toward that…or so he thought. He apologized in the beginning about how the room wasn’t what he’d thought it would be – totally understandable. Apparently he’d planned some group activities that wouldn’t work in a room with rows of straight tables. But then he kept mentioning this every couple of minutes, like a tic. Even when a slide was completely great on its own and had nothing to do with the room’s layout, he would say something like “And again, I thought we’d be around a table.”
His session had some great info, but he really sabotaged himself with the presentation. Rolling with the punches can be hard to do, but he made it harder. Again, I kinda stopped listening.
The bottom line is, if you point out how bad your presentation is, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t have to have a killer delivery if you have good info, you just have to shut up about it and give us the info. Pointing out how much something sucks makes it so.
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