3 Silly Tricks That Speakers Need to Stop Using
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase "Death by PowerPoint." It’s a cutely exaggerated way of talking about boring presentations, right?
Not according to veteran presentation attendee Robin Hardwick. In a hilarious, strongly worded post on Medium recently, Hardwick vented her frustration at being forced to sit through countless preposterous presentations, making clear that "Death by PowerPoint" can be actual agony, not just a funny phrase. In the course of the epic rant, she offers speakers plenty of expletive-laden advice on how to avoid torturing their audiences.
So what bad presentation habits does Hardwick hope to see consigned to the dustbin of history, along with other misery-inducing implements of medieval torture? Here are three.
OK, we get it; you figure your audience might get bored of your voice after a while. Why not do a meet and greet exercise with fellow attendees to break things up? Because it’s a horrible idea, that’s why.
"I am here for a presentation. That means that YOU are there to provide me with some knowledge or inspiration," she argues. "Therefore, please don’t make me turn to my neighbor and answer whatever dumb question you put up on the screen, just to buy you time/make you feel like you've created a community in the room or give yourself a pat on the back for making your presentation ‘interactive.’"
Failing to Control Question Time
Sometimes the most torturous person in the room isn’t the speaker, it’s a fellow audience member. Questioners often speak too softly or ask things that are of interest to no one but themselves. If you’re presenting, don’t let them get away with it.
First off, if someone asks something, repeat it. And more importantly, don’t answer every silly question you’re asked. "Inevitably, an inept audience member who will ask '[I have a very specific situation that applies to no one else here, and I've made the decision to ask this question to you in front of all these people because I’m an ignorant selfish f**k who doesn't realize or care that I am wasting everyone’s time, so please answer this question that will help no one but me]?'" Hardwick writes, eliciting nods of recognition from nearly everyone.
What’s the right response to this sort of bumbling rudeness? "Shut that down. Similarly, shut down any distracting or ignorant questions. You are not obligated to answer everything. Ask the person to talk to you after," Hardwick pleads.
Does this scenario sound familiar? "You start counting off so we can form groups, so not only do I have to move and huddle uncomfortably around a group of people with whom I will never work with again, but we have to read about a fake scenario that you came up with the night before, and then answer some demeaning and obvious questions about it on a f****g huge Post-it pad, and I have to pretend that I am a team player by proclaiming, ‘I’ll be the writer!’ and snatching up the sharpies you've provided with gusto."
If you hate these sorts of case studies, Hardwick is your champion. She criticizes them as a pointless gimmick that amounts to nothing in the end. "There’s absolutely no follow-up and no policies or actual useable ideas created from this," she says. Her solution: ban them!
Do you agree with Hardwick’s presentation pet peeves? Would you add any others to the list?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.