Readers respond to Worst Presentation Disasters column

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about some mishaps I had experienced when presenting to a large audience. It was fun to write and even more fun to read the stories sent in from readers, about some disasters of their own.
 
Dear Joan:
Your article this week had me laughing.  And remembering a presentation I did.  It was on, of all things, how to give a presentation.  One thing I wanted to show the audience was that it was important to check out everything in advance and make sure that all the details were in place before you speak. I was in the room long before any of the audience, and made sure everything was there.  I asked the people setting up my slides to shut everything down, and told the person who was introducing me that I wouldn’t be in the room when he tried to introduce me.  I planned to hide out in the bathroom (where I could hear what was going on the conference room) while I was introduced.  I had asked the introducer to ask the audience if anyone had seen me after I didn’t appear. After all this, I finally ran in the room, making all kinds of apologies for not knowing where the room was, etc.  I asked if the slides were set up, and made a big deal about how nothing was ready, etc.  My plan was to face the audience when everything was set, and ask them if, after having seen all that nonsense, how much attention they would pay to what the speaker had to say.
 
What I didn’t know was that the introducer had plans of his own.  Knowing I was going to do a big “shtick,” he decided to get into the act.  He rolled up a length of toilet paper, and when I finally got to the room, he surreptitiously taped it to the back of my jacket.  In all my rushing around to get everything set up, I whirled around and saw this toilet paper following me.  I wildly grabbed at my back and after several tries, got it off.  I certainly wasn’t expecting that! But the point was made, and there was a big groan of “I get it” from the audience when they understood.
 
It was fun, but a little more fun than I had planned!
 
Thanks for sharing this funny experience! I applaud your creativity and willingness to take a risk to make your presentation engaging and fun. Audiences appreciate interaction, simulation, and in your case, your willingness to laugh at yourself and take a joke. I’m sure they’ll never forget it.
 
I think the lesson for all presenters is not to try to be perfect. Try some creativity when you speak on any topic, and roll with anything that doesn’t go as planned. If you laugh at yourself and the circumstances, they will empathize with you, admire you for keeping your cool, and remember what you have to say.
 
Here’s another letter:

Dear Joan:
Thanks for sharing. Funny! Humility is a great trait, and gets an audience on your side. Have you heard this one?
 
A young pastor swaggered up to the pulpit –convinced he was about to impress greatly the gathered congregation.
 
It didn’t go well at all. When he was finished - slumping a bit – he meekly walked back to his chair.
 
Afterward, a kindly old saint spoke to him:
“Son, if you would have gone up the way you came down, you could have come down, the way you went up.”
 
Don’t you love these words of wisdom? Indeed, humility gets your audience behind you. Speakers who try too hard to be smart or important—talking down to an audience, acting the know-it-all—fail five minutes into their speech.
 
Some of the best speakers in the world have learned the importance of talking as if they were just having a conversation with you alone, addressing your interests and needs and caring what you thought. And if they mess up, they make the audience comfortable by making fun of themselves and simply moving on.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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