I was asked to speak at an event recently organised by a group outside of the event industry and I have to admit that it made me thankful that most of the events I attend are organised by meeting professionals.
With only two speakers you would have thought that there was little to go wrong. However with no chairperson or facilitator in the room it floundered right from the start.
My fears set in when the “speaker pack” was passed around. My content was zero as with only half an hour to talk I limited myself to just a couple of slides. The other speaker though had passed around 17 pages of slides (with three slides to a page)…
Needless to say 35 minutes into the other speaker’s session, we were only 15 slides in and half the audience was asleep. She did apologise to everyone when she realised she was overrunning – and blamed it on the fact someone else had put the presentation together so she hadn’t actually seen it. But there was still no stopping her!
Perhaps the most unusual moment was when the lady in question said: “I know I am running over a little so I will not bother going through this slide, I will let you read it yourselves.” Excellent I thought, she is going to skip on through and let the audience make use of their copious speaker packs. Wow was I wrong. Instead she simply stopped and stood there for about three minutes, whilst the audience read the slide!
Thank god I am both patient and had a pen to hand to start writing this blog!!! At least that way I could stay awake for when it would eventually be my chance to speak. To be fair maybe she realised I wasn’t paying any attention after the first 40 mins and carried on as a means of revenge.
So my question is: at what point does over-running stop being the fault of bad presenting skills and become simple rudeness?
By the time I eventually stood up to speak I was rather worried about the state of my audience – particularly one chap in the back row who was either fast asleep or had simply given up on life. Whilst I don’t consider myself to be the best speaker in the world I have at least seen some of those individuals in action… and thank god. Because I needed every trick in the book to wake people up and get them engaged.
I recognise that not everyone is comfortable speaking but surely there are a few rules to consider:
- Even if you don’t put your presentation together yourself, read it before you stand up!
- Keep to time.
- Watch the audience – if someone actually falls asleep you are probably doing something wrong.
- And for the organisers – firstly, have some sort of facilitator in the room… and secondly make the use of modern technology, use AV equipment to let people know when they are running over – if that fails a sniper at the back of the room might also help.