Why are Conference Speakers So Bad?

It was horrible. I watched the speakers at the conference. Their presentations were bad, very bad. They were boring, annoying and insulting. I left the room several times because I couldn’t stand it.

As the closing keynote speaker I wanted to hear as much as possible from the other speakers so I could tie things together in my presentation. So I forced myself to watch and listen. Cleary these weren’t professional speakers.

I spoke with most of the other speakers before or after their presentation. They each thought that they were very good. One claimed to be a long time college instructor. Another told me that normally he was a very good presenter but the topic that he was asked to present was boring – so it wasn’t his fault.

The conference speakers didn’t seem to be aware of the pain that they were inflicting on the audience. They were all at the first stage of learning – the unconscious incompetent. They didn’t know what they didn’t know. Some people never leave that stage. They die incompetent and ignorant. You can skip that stage by reading about these presentation horrors.

What mistakes did these speakers make?

Here is a menu of mistakes that the speakers made. Some mistakes were made by several speakers and all speakers made more than one mistake.

Speakers ignored the schedule. They didn’t seem to be concerned about finishing on time or getting the conference back on schedule. They seemed more concerned with covering their material instead of respecting their audience. Speakers that were clearly running late even kept begging the audience to ask more questions.

All presenters used PowerPoint. Most used slides that the audience couldn’t read but the speaker clearly needed to read. I know you can’t read this – that’s why I’m going to read it to you.

None of the speakers used a remote controlled mouse to advance their PowerPoint slides. Instead they conversed with, chastised and directed the person at the laptop to change slides – ahead or back. Even if the conference organizer didn’t arrange for a remote the speakers could have brought their own. If you present with PowerPoint get your own remote mouse.

The presenters shuffled around aimlessly while reading their PowerPoint slides. Sometimes the presenter moved in front of the projector blocking the screen and creating a splash of light on themselves.

Speakers didn’t know how to properly use the hand held microphone. The volume was set too high. There didn’t seem to be an AV technician in the room to adjust the volume. The simple ways to adjust is to hold the microphone farther away and speak softer. Most were way too loud because they held the microphone too close and/or spoke too loudly.

One speaker, who I had warned about the loud volume, held the microphone well and spoke well but coughed frequently into the microphone. We didn’t want to hear your coughs amplified over the speakers.

Who Cares?
Speakers didn’t know what information to leave out of their presentations. Good writers have great editors. “The policy changed in 1967” Who cares? Good speakers also need to edit their material. Present only the information to your audience that is relevant to them.

Speakers were not in the moment. They became automated robots delivering a presentation that perhaps was prepared by someone else. The presenters displayed no connection with the material. One speaker was introduced by the MC and then she said her name again. Why? She probably didn’t expect to be introduced and couldn’t adapt.

On the topic of introductions, none of the speakers had a prepared introduction. That should be a 30-second printed introduction that clarifies their expertise that the MC can read. So they only received a lame introduction, “Here’s Bob Smith.”

Wasted Words
There was the usual serving of useless, vague and self-sabotaging words. We heard “that sort of thing”. One speaker used the word “Okay” as a statement-ending hammer. One speaker even introduced one portion of his talk with “I don’t know if you have any interest in this but…” Then he talked about the topic that he had just diminished.

All things must end and these presentations did end, but not well. Most of the speakers did not have a prepared close. The most common close was, “I think that’s it. Thank you.”

Now that you know some of the mistakes that bad presenters make you can skip the unconscious incompetent stage. You’re on your way to becoming a better presenter.

© George Torok is the Speech Coach for Executives. He helps business leaders deliver million dollar presentations. Discover more free presentation tips at www.SpeechCoachforExecutives.com Arrange for speech coaching and presentation training at www.Torok.com To speak directly to George Torok call 905-335-1997

Why are Conference Speakers so Bad?

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TJ said...

Fair points, but I don't think it is just conference speakers who are bad. All speakers are bad everywhere because so few have ever been trained properly. It's the rare speaker who is interesting, captivating and memorable.

George Torok said...

Alas, I agree. There are too many bad speakers. It just happened that this particular provided so many examples of bad public speaking.

My work isn't done yet.