Recently I contributed to a forum discussion on LinkedIn titled "Are audiences too tolerant of useless presenters?" The topic was started by Paul Boross.
As co-author of "The Presenter's Handbook" I responded with the following:
"Paul, I also have sat through many a poor presentation, and like you thought 'How have they got away with that?' This can be especially the case at exhibitions where a guest speaker comes on stage and talks about a particular industry. At these venues there is little, or more often no feedback required. I do though write to the individual pointing out a few key improvements. As professionals the key is trying to make those presenters understand that they need improvement. That can be the difficulty! With regard to the audience and over politeness, I have a feeling it comes down to their expectations. Unfortunately there are so many poor presenters that audience expectations are low to start with."
My question is what are an audiences expectation when attending a conference or exhibition? Are audience members so numb from poor presenting that they switch off before even entering the keynote presentation?
This years Meetings and Events Australia designated their annual gathering in Sydney, a PowerPoint free zone. In an article by Rob Spalding "The Presenter's Handbook" argued that it was not PowerPoint to blame but the poor level of presenter.
Just mention of the word PowerPoint can start to have a negative effect on an audience. All too often presenters read bullet points from one slide after another, have mistimed video or simply do not engage with the audience as they are anchored to a lectern.
As part of coaching individuals we visit numerous exhibitions and conferences on behalf of clients. This provides ample opportunity to view other presenter's during the day. The signs of audience boredom - tapping on pads, doodling, checking emails, looking around the venue are all too frequent.
To raise audience expectations we at "The Presenter's Handbook" believe that the quality of presenter must first be raised.
Try this exercise.
Write down 5 presentations that you have felt the presenter has under achieved.
Now the hard bit.
Write down 5 presentations when you feel you under achieved.
Which list proved easier?
You have to take a step back as a presenter and analyse your own performance to improve.
What if someone has written your name in the first list? Don't get to negative, help is at hand with "The Presenter's Handbook" containing 260 pages of help and advice so your name does not appear in the first list.
Start improving your presentation skills and raise audience expectation levels.