5 Ways To Deliver A Disastrous Presentation

by drjim on August 5, 2008

The Hindenburg explosion was a disaster just like your presentation might be

The Hindenburg explosion was a disaster just like your presentation might be

So you can find self-help info on how to deliver better presentations just about anywhere on the web (including this blog!); however, where can you find guidance on how to really deliver a disastrous presentation? Well fear not, that’s what we’ll cover today…

Monica is one of my friends who is a professional speaker by trade. She is very good at what she does which is to teach retail sales folks in the wireless industry how to sell more. She appears to be about nine feet tall when you meet her for the first time, has an enormous amount of blond hair, and speaks with a Texas drawl that makes it almost impossible to try to not picture her wearing a cowboy hat. Naturally I went to her to get answers to my questions about how to give a bad presentation.

As you can well imagine, Monica was quite surprised when I asked her what I needed to know in order to give a bad presentation – “… but why would you EVER want to give a bad presentation. Who do you hate that much that you’d force them to sit through that?…” Once I explained that I was trying a bit of reverse psychology here and that if I understood what made up a bad presentation, then I’d know what to avoid she calmed down just a bit. She is from Texas you know so calm is always a relative thing with her.

If you really want to do a poor job of presenting, please consider this to be a checklist provided by Monica. If you’d like to do a good job of presenting, then don’t do any of these things!

  1. Don’t Rehearse. What me worry? Why bother to practice – you know this stuff inside and out, you’ll just go up there and wing it and the crowd will love you because it will seem more natural and less rehearsed than all the other presenters. Yeah right. Look: actors and musicians practice, practice, practice in order to get good enough to perform. What makes you think that you can get away without rehearsing? No matter how silly you look while practicing, you’ll look much better when you go to do the real thing!
  2. Don’t Tell The Audience Why They Are Sitting In Uncomfortable Chairs. When you take the stage, you have everyone’s attention. When you open your mouth to speak, you will start to lose them. Since you’d really like to keep as much attention as possible, you really should explain why you’re there. Don’t launch into your detailed presentation on how to optimize an Oracle 11g database using only a ball-point pen and a roll of aluminum foil until you connect with the audience by explaining why you’ve come to tell them this information.
  3. Tell Them What You’re Going To Tell Them, Tell Them, And Then Tell Them What You Told Them. I’m not sure if this was ever a good idea; however, it has become a cornerstone of public speaking courses and books. Too bad it’s really bad advise. We live in an age of text messages, Blackberrys, and TIVO time shifters. Nobody has the time or the energy to sit through a presentation where the content is just being summarized and represented three times over. You always want to lead up to your closing – end with a bang not a whimper. If you are summarizing for your audience, then you’ll lose them. Instead tell them that the murder was done by Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.
  4. Use As Many Slides As Possible. No matter how you feel about PowerPoint you have to admit one thing: it’s made creating slides very easy to do. As with most things about PowerPoint, this can be a bad thing. Look, your presentation is all about you and what you have to say, it’s not about the slides. Every new slide that you show to your audience will cause them to take their attention away from you to look at the slide. You will then have to fight them to get their attention back. Slides should complement and enhance what you are saying. Try this: use one slide for every 5 minutes of your presentation.
  5. Use Your Slide Deck As A Speech Outline. We’ve all seen this done: the presenter turns either 90 or 180 degrees from the audience and stares at the slides on the wall during the entire presentation. The audience spends it’s time thinking that they could just read the slides and not have to sit through this entire presentation since the presenter is just reading them to the audience. In a nutshell, this just shows that you didn’t take any time to prepare.

Monica told me that she could go on and on (and I believed her), but that these were the top 5 tips that she would provide to anyone who really wanted to do a bad job delivering a presentation. I’m not sure if she’s ever going to talk to me again, but at least I got the info that I had asked for.

So how many of these little gems have you seen in action? Anyone care to confess to actually doing any of them (I’ve done them all, just not all at the same time). If you did any of them, what made you stop doing it or why haven’t you stopped?

 

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian Brodie | Professional Services Consultant October 20, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Great post.

#3 is my biggest bugbear in presentations. I hear so many trainers repeat it – yet as you say, it leads to dull, dull presentations.

Ian

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Dr. Jim Anderson October 20, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Ian: Yep, this was one of the hardest pitfalls for me to overcome. I mean really, it sure seems to make sense doesn’t it? However, once I knew that it was “bad”, I started watching other presenters and it turned out that I was getting bored when they spoke this way.

I’ve come to peace with this by trying to tease the audience in my opening, lay a ground work for my main point in the body, and then let them know what I wanted to tell them during the conclusion. This way the whole speech is sorta a buildup to my main message. This definitely works better than saying the same thing over and over again!

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Toastcaster Greg April 29, 2009 at 12:34 pm

You want to kill your presentation? Eat a twinkie or chips while presenting.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson May 3, 2009 at 10:17 am

Greg: I think that you’ve hit on something here. I’ve never really seen anyone create a list of “good” vs “bad” food to eat prior to a speech. If I take your suggestions just a bit farther, I think that “bad” food falls into one of two categories: sticky and spray. Sticky foods will prevent you from opening your mouth all the way (think caramel here) and spray foods will come out again when you start to speak (your chips fit perfectly). Where do you think twinkies would fit?

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