Presentation Tips: Why are You Talking to Me?

Monday is not going to be a good day.

On Monday morning I have to sit through a four hour presentation.  There are things in life I enjoy doing, I enjoy riding my bike, I enjoy taking my children to the beach, I enjoy reading thrillers.  But I do not enjoy sitting through four hour presentations.

I am not alone, I have no doubt that my colleagues are busy working out how to get out of sitting through the session as well.  Busy concocting lies and excuses of one sort or another, so they don’t have to attend.

The thing is, I strongly suspect that the poor fool giving the presentation isn’t really looking forward to it either, I should think he would also rather be on the beach with his children.  (They could play with mine). And it is worse for him, he will have spent all weekend putting the presentation together, I guess that won’t be a hugely rewarding experience.

So what could he, you, we, do to make the whole presentation experience more edifying?


Give the audience a good reason to sit through the presentation.

  • A clear, single sentence objective.  (What do you want to accomplish in the next hour or four?  If you can’t write it down in one sentence then you are being vague and your presentation will be vague as well)
  • An objective that is realistic.  (Nothing that is never going to happen in a million years, I don’t want to switch off within two minutes of you starting)
  • Something that leads to action.  (What do you want me to do?  Updating me really isn’t enough, tell me what you want me to do)


  • Bonus Point:  To help those of us with short attention spans, state your objective both up front and at the end of your presentation.  Then we can all be sure if you have achieved it or not.

Now here is the clever bit:

If you can’t write a clear, realistic actionable objective for your presentation then don’t give a presentation.  Send me an e-mail or give me a call instead.  I will be busy answering my blackberry on the beach.

Presentations I'd rather not attend

Read another opinion

Image by Raider of Gin


  1. Other guidelines – not original but I’ve found them useful:

    1. Hold your audience by being entertaining.
    2. If you can’t be entertaining, be useful.
    3. If you can’t be useful, be brief.

    Thanks for a blog post that meets all 3!


  2. Hello James
    I have noticed that people don’t use presentations properly. Imagine if the presenter sent you the presentation. You read it and made notes of what you needed to make notes of.

    Then you attended a two part meeting. The first part is allowing all those who turn up to ask questions – the presenter’s job is to answer those questions to the satisfaction of the person posing the questions. The second half of the meeting would be reserved for decision making – working as a team to make the decisions that need to be made. If the presentation was simply educational and no decisions need to be made then you do not need the second half of this meeting.

    Presentations have become a tool that uses people – poorly, rather than a tool that people use effectively and efficiently. The lack of ‘customer orientation’ (thinking about the needs of the audience) is rampant in presentations – the content, how it is presented and how the content is delivered. I have always found them great for sleeping!

    I once was asked for my candid feedback. I gave my candid feedback. I was then called into my managers office and told that when people asked for honest feedback, even if it is on a form, they are not really looking for honest feedback. Thereafter I never bothered providing honest feedback – hey I was in my first three months of employment and that was a long time ago. Sadly, that means that most presenters have no idea as to how ‘bad’ their presentations are.


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