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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Presentation Crisis: How a Quote, Cartoon and Story Could Save Your Career

The Six Blind Men and the Elephant saved my job.

Props provide a powerful way of enhancing presentations. Verbal arguments aren't enough to convince people of your message. Try using visuals such as charts or cartoons, or physical props such as products or tools. Verbal props come in several forms: quotations from famous people, anecdotes, plays, poems or even questions.

The following is a true report of how I used my new-found communication skills and a combination of props to get me out of hot water with my company's auditors.

The auditors had submitted a report suggesting that I, as the chief supply manager, had exceeded my purchasing approval authority. I strongly disagreed and tried explaining to them the difference between our use of approval authority and implementation authority within the computer system. They did not buy my explanation - that is, until I had a chance to meet with them.

The meeting seemed to take forever. Tension clouded the room, because the auditors intended to remain firm on their "observation" and everyone knew my position.

Finally, it was my turn. I started: "I offer the quotation from George Bernard Shaw who said, 'In the right key you can say anything, in the wrong key, nothing.' So to help set the right key I ask you to look at this cartoon and parable that I am passing out."

There were some raised eyebrows at this point, but no one objected to my strange approach - yet.

After everyone had a copy of the handout I continued:

"This cartoon shows the parable of the six blind men and the elephant. The six blind men went to see the elephant, but being blind they had to examine the elephant with their hands. Each touched a different part of the elephant and noted their observation. For example, the first clutched the swaying trunk and said, 'The elephant must be a snake.' The next grabbed the tail and noted, 'The elephant is really like a rope.' Another fell against the side and exclaimed, 'Oh my, this elephant is like a wall.' Hugging the leg the next argued, 'The elephant is like a tree.' The fifth, while holding the tusk, stated, 'You are all wrong, I know it is like a spear.' And finally, the sixth felt the flapping ear and noted, 'This elephant is surely like a fan.'"

The nervous laughter dissipated the tension and now the people were more relaxed. Then I explained how the computer system we were using was very big and complicated, like an elephant, and that we had poor documentation. Therefore, it was unreasonable for any visitor to fully understand the workings in a two-week period (this was the duration of the auditors' visit). The heads nodded in agreement at this point. Then I showed a flowchart of our approval process - emphasizing that the "approval" they were focusing on was only "an approval to print".

The bottom line is they understood my point, and the audit report was changed. It is important to know that the facts were unchanged from my earlier discussions with them, but this time I packaged my sale and they bought it.

When was the last time you had a proposal or idea turned down? Could it have gone better if you had taken more care to sell it? To deliver a powerful message understand your audience, be clear on your purpose, plan your approach - and use props!

© George Torok delivers inspirational keynotes and practical seminars. He trains managers and sales presenters how to present to win. Find more free tips on presentation skills at http://www.SpeechCoachforExecutvies.com Arrange for George Torok to help you at http://www.Torok.com or call 800-304-1861

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives.

Volunteers, Charities and NPOs Get a Break on Public Speaking Skills

News Release: For Immediate Use

Volunteers, Charities and NPOs Get a Break on Public Speaking Skills

Burlington, ON – September 16, 2010:
People volunteer for many reasons. One of those is to develop new skills. The problem is that Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) have little or no budget for training.

One of the most important skills that people in any line of work (profit or non-profit) need to develop is communication skills in general and public speaking (presentation skills) in particular. These skills are important to both individual and organization success. Once learned, these skills stick and can be transferred to other work.

How can volunteers transform their presentation skills?
Volunteers, executives and staff of NPOs are invited to attend this free Presentation Skills Clinic sponsored by Bay Gardens and featuring local presentation skills expert, George Torok.

Who: Volunteers and staff of local charities and non-profit organizations
What: Special 89-Minute Presentation Skills Clinic
When: Monday September 27, 2010 – 8:31am to 10:00am
Where: Bay Gardens, 1010 Botanical Drive, Burlington, ON
Cost: No Charge
To Register: Contact Gisela Zehmer Gisela@BayGardens.ca or 905-574-0405

Like any good presentation – we will start and finish on time.

George Torok is the Speech Coach for Executives. He helps business and community leaders deliver million-dollar presentations. A bestselling author, radio show host and motivational speaker he explains and demonstrates practical techniques to be a more effective presenter. Through his training, coaching and writing he has helped thousands of people improve their presentations.

“You (George Torok) provided valuable content, entertained us, and demonstrated both a clear understanding and humility for the science and art of presentation skills.”
Paul Bates, Dean, DeGroote School of Business

Bay Gardens opened the newest funeral homes in Burlington and Hamilton. They made a half-million dollar commitment to supporting community groups and non-profit organizations with modern meeting facilities and special programs at no charge.

- End -

For more information please contact

Gisela Zehmer: 905-574-0405

George Torok: 905-335-1997

McCain Dealing Poorly with the Age Question: Video

The previous post shows a masterful example of Ronald Reagan dealing with a tough question - specifically about being an old man - maybe too old for the job of president.

Here's a video of senator McCain dealing with the same question. He starts off well but ends badly by insulting the questioner. That is the worst way to handle a question. Never insult your audience regardless of how much they might misunderstand or disagree with you.

Perhaps McCain was trying to be cute or funny. Yes, people laughed - but at what expense?

McCain didn't like the question or his own answer so he called the questioner a jerk. What kind of leader is that? If McCain was satisfied with his own answer he would not have needed to insult the student who asked the question.

'You jerk."

What was that?

Learn the difference between your inside voice and your outside voice - and expect the obvious questions.

If you are an old guy, people will ask you about your old age. If you are a young person, you will be asked about your lack of experience. If you are a small company you will be asked about your capability. Thank people for their questions. Give the answer that you prepared and look confident. Enjoy your victory. Never call them jerks - out loud.

George Torok

Executive Speech Coaching

Presentation Skills Coaching

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives.

Always be Prepared for Your Worst Question: Reagan Video

While preparing to give your presentation - consider the questions you might be asked. Always think of the toughest questions that might be posed. That might be that your price is too high, your experience is limited, your company is too small...

Don't waste your time praying that they wouldn't ask. Instead, plan and rehearse how you will respond. Your calm and confident reponse might be the tipping point that closes the deal for you.

Watch how Ronald Reagan handled the tough question about his age in this debate during his campaign for re-election as US president. He was the already the oldest president and he was running for his second term. It was easy to suggest that he might be too old for the job.

Some experts suggest that it was this reply that tipped the election in his favor.

You know that his reply was not off the cuff. He was prepared. Watch his face as the question starts to unfold. Notice how patiently he waits for the questioner to finish to heighten the tension.

This was a masterful example of dealing with your worst question. The reply was so good that that even the opponent laughed. I think that Reagan was so pleased with himselft that he took that drink of water so he won't giggle.

George Torok

Presentation Skills Training

Executive Speech Coaching

Helping business leaders deliver million dollar presentations

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives.


Power Presentations Tip 43: 3 Elements for a Successful Presentation

Do these 3 things to be successful

3.Move to Action

A poor presentation often includes just one of them.


One of your purposes is to give your audience information. That doesn't need to be totally new. It only needs to be relevant at this time. If could even be a new perspective.

The most common mistake when delivering information is to give "too much" information. The worst presenters simply dump information.

The key to success is to deliver the most relevant information that your listeners need at this time to make the decision to do what you want them to do. It's your job to present the most important information. You are not speaking to demonstrate all that you know. You are speaking to move people.


Every presentation needs to include some form of entertainment. Why? That's what keeps the audience awake and attentive. The entertainment needs to be sprinkled throughout your presentation.

One way to entertain them is with humor. But don't tell jokes. The best form of humor is to tell a funny story about something silly that you did. Don't tell the story because it's funny. Tell it to make the point. The laughter is a bonus.

Another way to entertain them is by engaging them in discussion. Ask them questions or answer theirs. Rhetorical questions also engage them.

Move to Action

Tell them what you want them to do next. Do you want them to sign the order, donate for the cause or vote for you? Make the desired action clear. Don't make them guess. Don't fumble your opportunity by hinting or implying. Tell them - don't ask them.

Airline staff do this well. They say, "Fasten your seatbelt please." They don't hint or ask "Would you fasten your seatbelt please." They are polite while they tell passengers what to do. You can do the same if you believe in the value of what you are selling.

George Torok

PS: Tell me how this tip helps you.
PPS: It's not you. These tips did not publish much over the summer. We're back.

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Why Do We Fear Public Speaking?

Public speaking is often rated as the greatest fear that adults have. Yet speaking by itself is not threatening to most. It’s the public in public speaking that frightens people. Why is this?

Perhaps it’s the way that you learned to speak in public. Most of us started speaking when we were around 1 year old. Our first words were enthusiastically cultivated and celebrated by our parents. Out first public speaking was what we did on the phone to our grand-parents.

Those were the good old days. Every word and sound you made (other than crying) was met with smiles and attention from the adults.

Our next opportunity to experience public speaking was in the grocery store. You learned that our favorite cereal, candy or treat could be ours if we made enough of a public spectacle to embarrass our parent. Yes, this public speaking thing seemed like a good thing – until we got home. Perhaps we were sent to our room. This was sending us mixed messages about public speaking.

Then you went to school. For a budding public speaker this was a gift – a classroom full of an eager audience. Boy, were we wrong. It turned out that every other student wanted to speak at the same time. Why didn’t they realize that your thoughts and words were more important than theirs.

Your years at school brought more opportunities to speak in public. Yet they often seemed like walking through a mine field. You never knew when you might say something dumb or give the wrong answer. The teacher would give you that look and your audience might snicker. And that was just the day-to-day grind of school days. You learned that the public could be very fickle and unappreciative about your speaking.

Public speaking in class was either to ask the teacher a question or to answer the teacher’s questions. Ask a dumb question or give the wrong answer and you might be on the receiving end of the teacher’s ire. Even if you asked good questions and gave the right answers – you only pleased the teacher and raised the distain of your fellow students. This public speaking thing seemed to be a no win situation. Most days it seemed better to avoid it. Keep your hand down and avoid eye contact.

The boldest public speaker was the class clown who seemed to have a natural talent for making jokes, entertaining the audience and annoying the teacher. The teacher was the one who did the most public speaking in class and that was often boring. Neither was a good role model for a future public speaker.

There was the school play. Perhaps you volunteered or were volunteered and you had a few lines to deliver. You rehearsed the lines before and after breakfast and on the way to school. Maybe you were coached by your parents who didn’t have a clue about public speaking or the pressure that you felt. The day of the play you delivered your lines. Perhaps you hated the experience. “Ain’t gonna do that again” – you vowed

So why is there a mystery that so many adults fear public speaking?

Maybe it’s because they have been conditioned that way most of their lives. If you want to be a better public speaker you might need some serious reconditioning.

© George Torok, The Public Speaking Pro, is a Toronto based Public Speaking Trainer. He helps business speakers deliver million dollar presentations. Discover more free public speaking tips at http://www.Public-Speaking-Pro.biz Follow daily public speaking tips at http://twitter.com/presentationsgo For training or coaching call 905-335-1997

For a better understanding of how to handle the fear of public speaking click here

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives