Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"If only I had the time ..."

I have lost count of the number of times clients have said that to me. My thoughts on people who produce and deliver cruddy presentations citing "lack of time" as the rationale for the cruddiness:
  • If it's not worth doing properly, what makes you think it's worth doing at all? The most common outcome of a company hiring me for Presentation Skills training is that they do a lot less presentations. And those remaining few presentations have the desired effect – they are worth attending, they make the sale, convince the sceptical, or whatever ... But no-one is sitting through an interminable list of bullet points and indecipherable flowcharts anymore.
  • If you don't have time, don't deliver it as a presentation. Most corporate presentations consist of a bunch of people sitting around a table working their way down through a document – and then some genius thought it would be helpful to project that document up on a screen at the end of the room. Suck it up, kill a tree and PRINT the wretched thing. Do not make someone stand up with chunks of War & Peace projected on the wall beside them.
  • Would you be happy to pay money to watch a play in which the actors visibly didn't know their lines and which rehashed sets and props from other plays you had recently seen?  There would be a riot on opening night. And make no mistake folks – each and every presentation you sit through, directly or indirectly, costs you money.
  • We reward all forms of information and entertainment with our attention and punish those that displease us with lack of attention. That's fine when you can click off the latest lousy sitcom and watch something well-crafted instead. It's not so fine when you are stuck in the room with Mr Bear-With-Me-While-I-Read-These-75-Slides-At-You ... We punish bad presenters by ignoring them but seeing as most of them are too busy reading their slides to notice that lack of attention, I think we need to step it up a gear. Crocodile pits have been mooted for a long while now, but no-one seems willing to take that first step. On the phone-in television Talent shows, they have the ubiquitous X for each judge. This can be a little mean when they make the lickle girls cry, but it would be a great idea in a meeting room. We could all start channeling Simon Cowell:  

"You have no belief in what you are saying, you obviously haven't got a clue what you're talking about as you're continually referring to your notes,  I can read faster than you can talk, and your slides look crap to boot."
It's got to stop folks, and it won't while we continue to tolerate lazy, clueless, self-centred presenters. What can you do to 'up the game' at your place of work? What can you do to make the lousiest presenters in your organisation 1% more aware of how lousy they are. All the 12-Step programmes start with the Acceptance step and acceptance requires insight:
"Hi, I'm Rowan and I'm addicted to bullet points ..."
What can you do to grant a lousy presenter in your life that smidgen of insight? Have a look at this extraordinary advertisement:

RSS Readers may need to click through to the post.
They shot 60,000 photos, developed almost 10,000 prints and then shot over 1,800 photos again, using no post-production techniques to produce that glorious ad. The equivalent that we tolerate every day in our working lives would look like this:



Do a presenter a favour today – tell them how lousy they are. You might want to use fractionally more diplomatic language than Mr Cowell [or me!], but do them, and yourself, a favour and tell them that what they are doing now is not good enough.

Related posts:
Rehearsal = staleness?

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