During a three day conference in London I had the opportunity to watch and listen to some incredibly charismatic and engaging presenters. Amongst them all, however, there was one presenter that stood out for all the wrong reasons and she has inspired this post. (As a female speaker with a mission to help more women present at conferences and events, I was disappointed it was a woman committing these presentation crimes!)
So what did this particular presenter do that led me to leave the room part way through her presentation because I felt my time was better spent in the foyer watching paint dry?
Here’s a quick overview:
- No clarity – she rambled from one thought to the next, often not even completing a sentence before moving onto another point without finishing the first.
- No structure – as above, she had no clear beginning, middle or end and left the audience confused about what exactly she was trying to say.
- No signposts – given the lack of clarity or structure, there was also no signposting so the audience had no idea what part of the speech she was up to and where she was going with it next.
- Didn’t deliver on promises – she made a bold promise at the beginning of her presentation that the audience would have extraordinary clarity on their business direction at the end of it; I just had a headache and confusion!
- Didn’t understand her audience – she was speaking to a room full of experts in their field, yet she shared basic information that most would have already known whilst trying to give the impression that what she was sharing was going to revolutionise their business and life.
- Inability to remember – she didn’t use notes and as she lurched from one random thought to the next, asked different members of the audience to remind her of what she promised to come back to. Then didn’t remember who she had asked!
- Didn’t know how to use technology – despite being the first speaker of the day with plenty of time to prepare, she hadn’t practiced using the technology so had to ask how to use it during her speech.
- Dreadful slides – the slides were boring, poorly designed and contained some inferior quality, out of focus images (she kept forgetting to advance the slides so they weren’t very useful anyway!)
- Revealed the presenting techniques she was trying but failing to use – she had clearly learned about the value of stage anchoring for different parts of her message but was thinking this through out loud and including statements like ‘Oh, this is a good part of the story, I should be standing over here now’ rather than smoothly and expertly incorporating the technique without it being obvious to the audience.
- Tacked on an offer to work with her at the end – after killing her credibility for about an hour and a half she then spent another twenty minutes telling us about how we could work with her and what a great deal it was.
- Went over time and even when she was finished she didn’t finish! – Several times she seemed to end the presentation and then said ‘Oh I forgot to mention….’ As a result, each time there was a quiet but still audible groan from the audience (or was that just me?)
Overall I found the presentation incredibly unprofessional and painful to sit through and I wasn’t the only one. To be fair, as I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt, this may have been the first time she had appeared on a stage in front of 130 people. And she did have some great qualities as a speaker – she had a lovely smile, friendly style, appeared confident, displayed no nerves and interacted with the audience quite well (129 other people managed to sit through the entire presentation so she must have been doing something right!) However, she would certainly have been familiar with the other high quality speakers appearing at the conference and should have prepared more effectively to provide the audience with more value and avoid being compared so unfavourably.
You may be familiar with some of my other formulas for successful presentations and pitches, so inspired by this presentation, here is my simple formula for how to kill your credibility as a speaker:
Poor Preparation + Poor Content + Poor Delivery = Credibility Killer
For the sake of your reputation and your audience’s experience, please don’t try it for your future presentations!
Mel Sherwood empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to communicate with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success.
Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s inspiring talks, masterclasses and coaching programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential