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.
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.