The Highs and Lows of Three Presentations

presentation-signAs you might imagine, my idea of a busman’s holiday is to attend presentations whenever possible. To be sure, the subject matter has to have some personal interest. I am unlikely, for example, to check out a scholarly lecture on quantum physics (unless a new client who deals in that realm surfaces).

There’s another reason I attend: To aid my professional growth. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in the audience for a few talks and want to share with you some highs and lows from three of them.

1. An author/professor talking about his recent book.


  • He had some interesting data that he presented in a reasonably understandable way.
  • He made it a point to warmly greet his audience (and even welcomed the C-SPAN crew that was shooting the event).
  • During Q&A, he came out from behind the lectern and transformed into an animated, approachable speaker.


  • Most of his slides were text-heavy garbage. It’s a visual medium; use it as such.
  • He hid behind the lectern during his formal remarks, reading his slides and avoiding eye contact with the audience.
  • While locked on to his slides, his voice was far less engaging than his more informal Q&A session.

2. A casual roundtable with a lawyer sponsored by a group of entrepreneurs.


  • The speaker had a wonderful, open persona that allowed her advice to land with impact.
  • The organizers greeted everyone as they walked in, making for a friendly environment.
  • They made it a point to start and end on time (unlike many organizations that, for some strange reason, insist on punishing those who arrive on time).


  • Everyone in attendance was forced to write out cutesy signs describing what they did (your mileage may vary as some people like this stuff).
  • There was little attempt to draw everyone into the conversation, allowing a couple of people to raise several issues while others were shut out.
  • The description of the host organization was a bit long and drawn out. Sure, it’s fine to tell everyone who you are when you sponsor an event; just keep it brief.

3. A think tank hosting a conversation with a cabinet secretary, followed by a separate panel.


  • Plenty of brainpower in the room.
  • The group’s facilities staff made seamless and quick stage changes when shifting from the one-on-one discussion to the panel format.
  • There were clear and copious signs offering the wifi password for those who wanted to tweet live.


  • Seven presenters and all were middle-aged or older white guys. In 2016? Really?
  • Some of the presenters were less than engaging nonverbally. I get that they are self-described “budget geeks” and public speaking is not their first calling. Still, a little more polish would be a good thing.
  • The emcee’s questioning skills were, well, questionable. It took him forever to get to his queries.

You’ve no doubt attended your share of presentations, too. What are some of the highs and lows you’ve observed?



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