Three bad ways to start your speech

PowerPointI went to an industry event today where there was a guest speaker. I thinkthere was some value to the substance of his presentation, but it was very hard to tell because I was so turned off by the style, which was forecast by three things he did at the very top:

  1. He announced that he would speaking for an hour. AN HOUR. You could feel the air being sucked out of the room as everyone silently devised their escape plans. Nobody deserves an hour. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, two of the great orators of our day, would (and do) often push the hour limit in their State of the Union addresses. That’s a bit much even for them. You’re no Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. You don’t get an hour. Especially at a lunchtime address in the middle of the workday.
  2. He held up his book and thumbed through it, explaining how it and his presentation was divided into four sections. Keep your book out of the intro. We all know you wrote a book. It’s in the program description. It feels like you’re selling to us, not providing vital information. Refer to it later, but not in the first 2 minutes.
  3. His slides were so dense with words I couldn’t count them all. I estimated 150 words for one of them. That’s words, not characters. At multiple other points the copy was so detailed he had to read it to us. But most people at that point were staring at their blackberries, so it didn’t matter.

This is a struggle I’ve gone through with my content — the book and the articles and presentations based on the book. I worry that it’s not substantive enough. But when I have an experience like this, I tell myself that being boring is the worse sin.

When trying to inform, seek first to entertain.

Tonight I will dream of PowerPoint slides with nothing at all but pictures …

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