Friday, September 26, 2008

What not to do during an oral presentation/conference

As I have already explained in my blog the previous post, I have gone today to the Ecommerce salon of Paris. I have attended couple of conferences proposed during this event, and wanted to talk specifically about one.

Foremost, I want to let you know that this is not only a critique. I believe we all have some weaknesses while we speak in public, including me. So try to consider it as an advice, and a way to improve your oral skills.

  • The look: the host was mid casual mid formal, but a very strange look: blue jeans, with a very classical jacket and a red flashy tie. A mix between an IBM representative and a young communication consultant. Not really proper. Try to be consistent, find your look and stick with it.
  • PowerPoint issue: I know it could happen to anyone. You will always have powerpoint problems. Guy Kawasaki said that you have 45 minutes to present your business plan, 15 min for the presentation, 15 min for the questions, and 15 min to get PowerPoint ready. We watched a bugged version of the presentation. But I believe that this would have been fixed if the presentator would have come a little bit earlier to the session... Come early and test your presentation right away.
  • Slides in English: We are in France for god sake! Not that I don't understand English, but the fact the presentation was in English makes me suspicious. I am sure this was a corporate presentation, not at all customized to fit in the conference. Even though you have pre prepared presentation, you must customize them to speak about the topic, and match the audience interests.
  • No eyes contact with the public: In his overal behavior, the guy was facing down, and making very few eyes contact with the crowd. He seemed he was in his own little world. This is very important to play with the audience, and to show it you are paying attention to their feedback. Play with the public, and pay attention to how it behaves.
  • The tune: It is important to play with your tunes, change the intonations, to have specific breaks.
  • The balancing movement: This is terrible, you know, you are balancing on your leg...
  • No presentation guideline: It is not necessary to introduce the table of content for an oral presentation, as long as there is a main guideline. But there, no table of content, no links between the different slides. You don't really see the point. A lot of statistics, but no real meaning was taken out of it. Stats are great, but they need to be used to point out something. I usually introduce the presentation first, letting people know how the presentation has been defined, and therefore, show out the guideline.
  • Authority problems: It can happen that the audience doesn't really pay attention to your show. But there, the presentator ask two people at the first row to stop talking whereas this private conversation did not seem to bother the public. I mean, you are facing a professional crowed, you are not in an inner city junior high school... If people don't listen to you, there is probably a problem...
  • An evidence of the poor presentation: I turn my head and nobody is taking notes, which was not the case for the prior conference.
  • Not up-to-date slides: One of the slides show Obama and Clinton fighting with boxing gloves, to represent the intense competition on the web. It has been couple of months Clinton is now out of the race. An up-date with the picture of McCain could have been sweet.
  • Approximations: You are an expert and it is important to be precise in what you are saying. "Obama has 1.2 million friends on Facebook". Wrong. This is not possible as the maximum is 500.000 friends. However, he might have a group of 1.2 million friends on Facebook. That is different. I would have liked the presentator to be sharper.
  • Too general: you have people that are already in the Internet sphere: they know the basics. People are seeking for examples new ideas, new concepts. Nothing that you could found there.
  • Nothing operational: As I have said that was general basics stuffs presented. I would have appreciated some operational advices.
  • Oups: There is a picture showing the two famous character of the Apple vs Microsoft commercials, hand in hand. It symbolizes, according to the presentator, the search engine optimization effort and the social media optimization working together... The commercials is exactly the opposite, where we can see a competition between the two major companies of the computer industry. Really bad
  • The gifts: Good idea to offer presents to the audience at the beginning of the conference. But when they come, it is simply some discounts on some of the services of the company... This is not a present! This is a commercial offer... Kind of deceiving there too.
  • Don't answer the questions: At the end of the conference, there was some time dedicated to questions. No answers to none of them. "Come and see me at my booth". Yeah right. I think it is important to answer those questions, especially because they confirm your expert status and they might complete some points of your presentation you have not covered properly...
Just to finish, a positive point. The conference was video taped. This is a great idea, because it allows you to improve your performance. If, of course, you spend some times reviewing it, which is rare that it happens.

Hopefully this post will help you for your next presentations.


  1. You killed the speaker. You had very good points, the only bad thing is that the speaker is not gonna read your blog to better his presentations. BTW it seems you did take notes during the presentation because you practically commented on every aspect of it.

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