Bad presentations are your fault.

I had the misfortune yesterday to sit through five presentations, which as a group, were possibly the worst presentations I have seen in many years. Uniformly, none of the presenters had a point to their talks, they simply recited a pile of facts. I say recited and mean recited; every single word of their script was included on the densely compiled, visually impenetrable, colour clashing slides. The “room” was approximately 40m long by 6 wide actually made up of four rooms joined lengthwise. The presenters all had a microphone but were difficult to hear. Not one question was asked of the presenters as they failed uniformly to engage the audience of one hundred people who had given up 4 hours of their time for that meeting.

I’m sure each of the presenters put a lot of effort into the preparation and delivery of their talks. I fully appreciate that with an interest in all things presentation that I have much higher standards than others for what I consider good. I recorded my feelings on the feedback form. Left alongside my form were the four forms from colleagues at the same table. Each recorded the quality of the presentations as “good” or “excellent” and that the day had, “met educational requirements”. There are number of possible reasons these colleagues assessed those presentations as such. 

  • They believe those were good presentations
  • They have no expectation or experience of good presentations
  • They believe those weren’t good presentations but are uncomfortable giving honest feedback.
  • They have no confidence that honest feedback will make any difference.
  • They just don’t want to rock the boat.

Try to remember the last presentation you sat through and then completed a feedback form for. Were you really honest? What standards to did you assess it against? Did it meet your expectations and what level of expectation do you have? 

Bad presentations are your fault as long as you accept poor quality, deliver poor quality yourself, fail to deliver appropriate feedback or fail to act upon appropriate feedback, ignoring outlying opinions. Change is only going to happen when it becomes the norm to expect great presentations, to deliver better presentations and give honest feedback. If we don’t, it will only get worse.

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