C’mon… Don’t be THAT presenter!

I was recently invited to give a presentation at a conference to talk about how in today’s communication environment Monsanto is working to talk about science differently, and encourage the young scientists at the conference to tell their awesome science and agricultural stories. Since that is a topic I am extremely passionate about, I jumped at the opportunity. I was one of 4 speakers in the morning session, and after the session was finished, I overheard the following conversation from the neighboring bathroom stall, “Uh, those presentations were just OK. It seemed like the speakers just repeated each other. And some of them were really boring.” It was like a bad high school flashback when I stepped out of the stall. :-)

But, I would agree, and that feedback was warranted for the session. Hopefully, there were things that I did that worked with the audience, but there’s always room for improvement. So, as I reflected on the sessions, these are my key takeaways:

  1. If you are a presenter, you should listen to the other presenters before and after you. I was speaker 2 of the 4 speakers, and I stayed for the whole thing. Other presenters were in and out. The person before me said some of the things that I had planned on covering, and so I modified my talk to minimize those sections. The person that came after me repeated many things that I had said. Being agile and helping a presentation flow is a key skill that is not always considered by individual presenters. But it isn’t about them, it’s about the audience. Speaking of…
  2. Tailor your presentation for your audience. I get it, we’re busy. Sometimes (OK, far too often) I am putting together presentations on a plane, or in a hotel room, or an hour before I am supposed to present. But every time I ask myself — who is this audience and what is the take away for them?. This was an audience of college students yet the presentations were targeted at people who had been in the workforce for years. It had no message and no action for them to take. It was a missed opportunity.
  3. Lay off the slides, and if you can’t, lay off the words. We love slides, don’t we? And in my experience, scientists really love slides with a ton of words. But do you want people reading your slides, or people listening to your story? One of my co-presenters had 60 slides for a 45-minute talk and they were wordy. The good news was that she was an energized speaker. The bad news was that I felt like my head was spinning when she was finished. Her embedded messages were great, but her talk would’ve been more powerful and actionable with half of the content..
  4. I am happy that I overheard that conversation in the bathroom! This experience forced me to evaluate how I will present in the future. Sometimes a nice reminder is needed and in this case it is very much appreciated.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!!!