Thank you for your excellent presentation (again)

Recently I suffered a truly execrable presentation: there was absolutely no direction or purpose in the p1, the supportive media p2 was disastrous in chaos and complexity and the delivery p3 was entirely turned towards to the screen, reading out huge chunks of text, waving the pointer around, moving slides back and forth as points were remembered until the speaker ran out of time without achieving his conclusion. The audience were clearly in discomfort, shuffling in their seats, checking their phones and some even chatting. At the end a questioner rose.

 

thank you for your excellent presentation

 

I’ve written a wee post, tongue in cheek about this before but the phrase bears deeper examination. “Thank you for your excellent presentation” appears to have originated in America and has become almost a marker of the cognoscenti at a scientific meeting. Using the phrase, intentionally or otherwise, marks one out as en vogue, experienced and travelled. Or just insincere. Adding, “I very much enjoyed it,” adds nothing at all.

Language identifies users and is as changeable as fashion itself. It is copied to the point at which it becomes cliche and the value lost. Think about the ripped jeans, once challenging and almost shocking on the limbs of the famous, now compulsory for the world’s teenagers. “Thank you for your excellent presentation, I very much enjoyed it” is now just a phrase.

Yet language does have meaning whether intended or otherwise. Such “wise” assessment and praise will give encouragement to the presenter and to the audience regarding the nature and standard expected of presentations. This is unhelpful as the plaudit was clearly inappropriate in the view of most of the audience. Perhaps if language was used more carefully excellence would be applauded, encouragement made more specific and presentations would improve.

2 Comments

  1. Ian Summers

    Hi Ross,

    Yes, I have noticed this, and used something like it when justified by real quality often privately at the end of a session. Conference presentations take a great deal of work and emotion, worth acknowledging (not your point I know).

    I have also seen words like it used when someone has bravely got up and made a real hash of a presentation. Nerves can be like that. A single act of kindness after public embarrassment can help, and maybe that’s the intent. Perhaps, “thanks for presenting to us” better than an insincere “thanks that was great”.

    Hopefully they have a friend in the audience or the session chair they have asked to give real feedback privately- and a real friend gives real feedback.

    The other possibility is that the person in the audience actually did get out of the presentation what they wanted to get out of it, audiences being made up of individuals with varying needs and styles themselves.

    anyway, thanks for your excellent etc

    Cheers, Ian

    Reply
    1. ffolliet (Post author)

      It is such a sadness that the phrase is devalued as such.

      I agree, after a disastrous presentation, there needs to be some support and I can’t think what that would be. Outright public insincerity seems more unhelpful than nothing, but seems unlikely to be the case, particularly if it is followed by a “difficult” question.

      I do agree that a sympathetic friend in the audience is what is required for real feedback.

      As to the possibility that the questioner really DID get out of the presentation what they state, I do think you are being very generous. And intriguingly, the same level of expectation of a presentation evokes the same response across the world. Perhaps not.

      Reply

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