Delivery from evil

I don’t pretend to be an expert presenter. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to speak across the world, but that doesn’t make me good. Fortunately I have friends like Laurie Ruettimann who take the time to feedback after they watch me speak and tell me how to be less of an arse (“Morrison, stop moving about so much”).

But having taken the stage and watched my fair share of presenters, there are a number of key crimes that I see coming up time and time again.

The overrun – When Dale Arden told Flash she loved him, “but we only have 14 hours to save the earth. She meant it. When Warhol said, “in the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes”, he wasn’t messing around. The thing is, whilst the content you have is probably worth twice the slot you’ve been given, that’s the slot you’ve been given and if you can’t tell your story in the allocated time, you’ve not prepared hard enough.

The sh*t slide – “Now I know this one isn’t easy to see”. So, pray tell, why did you include it in the pack? I can’t tell you how frustrating I find it when people drop in a slide that has so much detail that you can’t read a thing. It’s lazy, it’s probably taken from a work deck that was printed out as a handout. Essentially the speaker is telling you that they can’t be bothered. Which is nice.

The slow death – Nobody makes you get up and present. At least not once you leave school. So you’ve either volunteered or you’ve been paid. In which case put a bit of feeling in it. Nobody wants to make love to a corpse and your delivery has to show that. Give some energy, some swagger, some enjoyment and some passion. And if you can’t muster it, don’t get on stage. It’s as simple as that.

The off topic – “When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck”. The wise words of James Whitcomb Riley. And when I see a session called, “The connection between gastric bands and performance in HR” I expect the same. Don’t call your sessions something sexy and then deliver something akin to a nuzzling up with a cardigan wearing librarian. It just isn’t right.

The lone wolf – So you’ve spoken, you’ve done your thing. That’s the gig. What about the other speakers out there? The people that are also putting out for the collective appreciation. Especially if you’re on social media, go help a friend. That’s the least you can do. Doing your thing and heading off? Well it just makes you look like a bit of an attention seeking prat.

I know I missed some, but these are just my bugbears. And coming from guy who was rated “smug” by one attendee at his last conference, who am I to talk?


  1. dougshaw · February 9, 2015

    Useful list – thanks. Seeing a presenter use their own slides as a prompt/autocue – that sucks pretty bad. And to your 4th point, I know I wander at times – and you are right, people want to hear something that bears a close resemblance to what ‘the tin’ says. I gave two different talks at a conference last year – and unbeknownst to me – the organisers flipped the session descriptions by mistake. I got some pretty harsh feedback from people who said I was a country mile off topic, and they were right based on what they read. I got a lot of good feedback too but I discounted all that as I beat myself up over the bad stuff, oddly continuing even after I spotted the glitch. So I am learning not to be too hard on myself after the event. I try my best, and I look for ways to improve. I make myself available as much as possible before and after – I want to thread my endeavours into the sense of what other people are saying. I’ve ben invited to share, and I like to try and help the whole event hang together, you can only do that if you are there to listen and reflect.

    Thanks again – timely reflection for me.

  2. Julie · February 9, 2015

    Good points – I would add one that is on the other end of the Slow Death continuum.

    As you put it, “Give some energy, some swagger, some enjoyment and some passion.” Fully agreed; however, consider your audience and the venue. In all likelihood you are not a rock star…stop calling yourself a “futurist” and tone down the light show coordinated with your rocking back beat…it’s distracting and embarrassing.

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