Dave Hill – The Re-Engineered Engineer – Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach
Dave Hill provides a funny story to illustrate the destructive nature of really bad presenters. The number one thing that audiences hate about bad business presenters is that they turn their backs to the audience and read the slides word-for-word.
Dave Hill – Speaker, Trainer, Speech Coach, and Author
1) In 2007, I attended an Energy Technical Exchange Conference where about 900 people flew in from around the world. The first presenter was a corporate safety manager, and he delivered a safety presentation with what seemed like 80 mind-punishing PowerPoint slides. The slides were overloaded with long sentences, wordy bullet points, and statistical data. He started his presentation by turning his back to the audience and reading it word for word in a monotone voice. His laser pointer guided us from word to word and he was so nervous that the laser dot shook as if an earthquake was underway.
Impact on his company’s bottom line: This was a $2,000,000+ conference and the word in the corridors was that people were not getting any value from it. The result of this was that the attendees did not go away with any new ideas that would help them work more safely or efficiently.
2) A friend who works in the financial world told me that his company sends him to about six mandatory conferences a year; however, he does not attend the information exchange sessions. He stated that they are boring, and the information exchange is so ineffective that he just works from his hotel room, plays golf, or goes for long walks.
Impact on his company’s bottom line: His six conferences cost about $36,000+/year including travel, hotel, and conference fees.
3) An engineer was asked to present to the company executives on the need to spend millions of dollars on electrical system upgrades. His presentation was to last about one hour. A few weeks before the presentation he showed his slides to his boss to make sure he was on target. His boss saw the plethora of slides and said, “This meeting will not involve PowerPoint; we will use the information from about 10 of the 95 slides to make a handout and we will keep a few others aside in case they want additional details.” The engineer sighed and told his boss, “I have been working on these slides for months; this has been a huge waste of my time.”
Impact on his company’s bottom line: His initial presentation development effort wasted over 100 hours. Cost to the company could be in excess of $10,000. In addition, visualize what would have happened if the engineer had turned up to present his 95 PowerPoint slides. Picture his loss of credibility and the erosion of his future promotional prospects. Imagine the effects of his failure to successfully communicate the need to upgrade the electrical system. The electrical equipment could have huge production interruption potential in the event of a breakdown.
4) I was at a conference where an engineer was presenting on a technical subject to several hundred peers. He was a very knowledgeable engineer and was asked to speak based on his technical expertise. At the lectern, he clenched his notes in his hands. He was so nervous his notepaper was visibly shaking and his quavering voice gave a clear indication of the sheer terror and anxiety that he was going through. He confided with me afterwards that his hands were shaking so much that he could not read his notes.
Impact on his company’s bottom line: The engineer said he would never present to his peers again. Even when I suggested that he join a public speaking club to better manage his anxiety, he just looked at me and reiterated, “Never again.” The company lost a resource for critical knowledge transfer.
5) Visualize a management meeting where about 50 people have flown in from all over North America to discuss and gain consensus on a major change going on in the company. The conference room is full and absorbs the sound. There is no microphone and the average age of the people is between 50 and 60 years old. A few people have hearing aids. The presenters are unable to project their voices to the back of the room. Frustration levels build especially since some presenters mutter rather than talking. Questions are asked by attendees at the front of the room that people behind cannot hear. The presenter does not repeat the question back to the audience so that they would understand what the question or concern was about.
Impact on the company’s bottom line: This meeting may have cost in the region of $250,000 not to mention the loss of productivity due to attendees being away from their normal work.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
Ineffective presentations can have a significant impact on a corporation’s bottom line.
It is a waste of your time and the audience’s time.
As a presenter, you can feel demoralized and frustrated as you fail to get your message across.
As an audience member, you may feel worn, bored and may be hesitant to attend meetings and conferences.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS?
Make presentation skills training a required personal development goal.
Ineffective presentation skills are a huge waste of resources.
Find niche experts to conduct your training (my specialty is teaching presentation skills to technical people – engineers, project managers, financial and audit groups etc. – https://www.davehillspeaks.com).
Identify cost effective local public speaking training forums- such as Toastmasters International- to identify public speaking clubs in your area (search by zip code at http://www.toastmasters.org). See my previous article on how to find the best public speaking club for your specific needs at http://wp.me/p1seVG-eV.
Dave Hill – Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach
In a high speed “do more with even less” workplace environment, disaster sometimes rears its ugly head.
Imagine you’re in a highly technical training class with subject matter that would bring strong emotional viewpoints to the table. There is no doubt that there will be conflict and heated arguments.
This article covers a not-so-perfect training session being conducted by a contract company that specialized in the technical subject. As someone who also provides training on technical subjects and training technical people how to present information effectively, there are some lessons we can all learn from this.
How could a technical training session being conducted by a highly qualified company come unraveled at the edges and set us (the customers) up for potential failure?
The training class was being organized by our group at the corporate office to train and educate technical workers on a radical change in the way they would normally do things. My boss and I had attended this training class a year previously when it was conducted by the owner of the company, someone who was highly respected in industry. The training had been of a very high quality.
A few days before the recent training session, we were informed that the owner would not be conducting the training; it would be an employee that we were not familiar with. It surprised and concerned us that the owner would only be attending the training session in a support role. When we talked to the alternate instructor by phone before the training session, we started to have concerns.
Fifteen minutes into the training, a trainee in the seat to my right, nudged me to get my attention, and whispered sarcastically, “Is this his first time doing training?” Not a good sign!
What went wrong during this training?
1. The trainer appeared nervous and inexperienced.
2. He did not provide a very clear up-front description of the concepts that would be covered, and how all the different parts would fit together to help our company move forward with the significant change. He should have provided a detailed example to help portray how the technical information was to be actually applied.
3. He appeared to be unfamiliar with the material on the slides, his awkward long pauses between sentences gave the indication that he was frantically thinking about what to say next. He was also spending a lot of his time reading the words from the slides using his laser light to annoyingly “bounce” from word to word. He would fly past information when it was clear that attendees needed clarification on specific points.
4. Occasionally his boss, the owner of the contract company, would interrupt him and tell him he was wrong, and correct him.
5. The owner of the contract company was taking notes (as the employee was delivering the training) and developing new slides on a laptop (it appeared that our training session was also being used to help develop better training materials).
6. At times, there were emotional disagreements between the class attendees and the owner of the company that made for awkward moments.
7. I give the instructor some credit for trying to use humor in his training, but he was off-target. The trainees were already grumbling about blatant sales pitches being included in the training material (the contract company also provides services to help mitigate identified hazards). He would make comments such as, “I will not go into this in too much detail because my company does not provide this service – ha, ha, ha”. With groans from the trainees, his boss, the owner of the company scowled, cringed, and politely told him to stop using humor.
8. The instructor had not taken the time to customize his presentation so that the calculation tools and methodology and spreadsheets would mirror those that our company uses. These differences made an already complicated subject even more confusing.
9. During breaks, there were trainee conversations that gave a clear indication of frustration.
10. The emotions were very high during the training. There were even times where people were even portraying “violent agreement” (emotionally charged arguments where everyone was actually in agreement!).
11. Side conversations were not controlled by the instructor, and were disrupting to the training session.
12. The trainees filled in the training evaluation sheets, and it was indicated that they rated it “fair to poor”.
What Were The Results?
1. The contract company, and particularly the instructor, lost a lot of credibility (I would be hesitant to recommend this instructor to anyone).
2. My boss and I lost a lot of credibility as we had organized the training session.
3. The new program we were trying to “sell” to the trainees was off to a very rough start. We knew that they would be grumbling to upper management and hurdles for progress would potentially appear.
What Could We Have Done To Make Sure The Training Was Successful?
1. We should have spent a lot more time preparing for the training session:
• We had assumed that we would get the owner of the contract company doing the training; we should have confirmed this.
• We should have spent time with the instructor customizing the training using our company-specific spreadsheet tools, terminology, etc.
• We should have made sure that there was a very clear picture of the training structure up-front. This would have helped the trainees understand how all the different parts fit together
What are some of the other things I learned during this three day training?
1. Before the training session, we had prepared numerous “actual” technical examples for the trainees to work through, and for the trainer to facilitate. These were scheduled for day three. The trainer and his boss suggested that we split the class up into five groups, get them to solve the problems, and present the results to the rest of the class one by one. They indicated that this would be more effective and more controlled, given the emotionally charged atmosphere. This was great advice and worked exceptionally well.