Deliberately bad presentations

I was working with a group recently (on a more general communications course, rather than presenting) and one of the participants on the course mentioned that her boss had told her that her slides should all be ‘self contained’. It piqued my interest, so we had a bit of a chat. My heart sank as she spoke.

Apparently her boss is of the opinion that all slides must contain all the information about everything the speaker needs to say. It doesn’t need to be a script, he says, just all the material. Why? So that the slides can be passed around and shared without the need for additional briefing notes to accompany them. The result is – inevitably – a dense screed of bullet points which – also inevitably – the presenter just reads.

You’ll be unsurprised to discover that no one in that particular organisation either

  • attended his presentations if they could avoid it; or
  • payed any attention when they had to be there.

In short, the presentations, albeit so beautifully self contained, weren’t any use.

[bctt tweet=”There’s little point in talking if no one is listening!”]

Young man making a wish isolated on white background

Excellent!  I’m going to give my boss’s presentation – from his slides…

Now, obviously, I’m going to say that you should try and avoid passing your slides around – best practice is clearly to design your own material, generally speaking – but in the real word of business presentations I’m often asked the best ways to deliver other peoples slides. It often happens that ‘the boss’ suddenly decides they can’t deliver a presentation and you’re dumped with it. Lucky you.

I blogged about it before and with my tongue in my cheek I even mentioned that you should pray for bad slides – at least you’ll know what you’re supposed to say. I stand by that blog; there’s some good material in it… but what about the mentality of a boss who deliberately writes (and requires) bad slides? Changing a mind-set is harder than coping with a one-off panic from a boss who can’t cope!

I make no claims that I’ve tried all of these techniques – I’m in the privileged position of being a recognised expert and so it’s okay for me to say “That won’t work: try this instead”. That might not be good for your career, so I’ve asked around and these are some of the suggestions other people have come up with…

  • Just give the slides as handouts and use them as a starting point for a workshop or conversation – make it a workshop not a presentation
  • Run… just run… save yourself while you still can!” (not sure I can get behind that one 100% but the person who suggested it was adamant it was the only option :)
  • Try and find just five minutes to copy the contents of the slides into your notes and then just put ‘title’ slides up for the audience. That way you’ll have the material to hand but you won’t make your audience hate you so much.  (I’d add that you could do something even quicker by just printing the slides as notes.)
  • Talk naked – go without slides… or just put up a picture of the boss in question and make it obvious that you’re their to read the slides on his behalf (it was a he – Ed)
  • Abort the presentation after just ten minutes and break for coffee/tea with the words “Have a read and get back to me. We’ll reconvene in 20 minutes for questions when you’ve gone over the stuff”.

If you’ve got any better ideas, let’s have ’em! :)

Simon is one of the UK's most highly regarded presentation skills trainers and professional speakers in the fields of presenting, confidence and emotional resilience.

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