Watching a Train Wreck

I recently attended a presentation by a business author whose book I planned to read, but never got around to it. When I heard she was coming to my town of Washington, D.C., I signed up to attend.

Boy, what a disappointment. She began with a story that was overly long and altogether pointless. I suspect that she knew she was in trouble. How could anyone miss the crossed arms, dull looks, and sideways glances among audience members?

What did she do to try to win the audience back? Tell another equally long and meaningless story. Then it was on to dual flip charts for a confusing exercise.

The effect was only enhanced by an ending that featured a slide so dense that even those in the front had difficulty reading it. When it popped onto the screen, she told us, “You probably can’t read this,” which resulted in a round of audience snickers. She tried to excuse it by noting it was mostly for her anyway. Okay, thanks for using a visual medium in a most un-visual way.

My eagerness to buy her book had by this time dissipated. When she ran over her allotted time, I needed to head for the exit, so I never did witness whether things ended with a bang or a whimper (can you guess which one my money is on?).

You’ll note that I have not mentioned any names. While I’m always pleased to applaud a bravura performance, I shy away from calling anyone out and perhaps harming their career and book sales in the process. Maybe she just had an off night. Maybe she’ll figure it out. Here’s wishing her better luck with future speeches.

What do you do when confronted with a presentation like this? Do you leave? Try to check your messages as unobtrusively as possible? Grin and bear it?

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