Luckily most of our audiences are too polite or professional to write such a letter but that doesn't mean they don't want to. Business audiences across the globe complain about the same presenter shortcomings, yet somehow we presenters don't get the message. If our too-polite audience could tell us their concerns directly, what would they say?
1. Please don't read the slides to me. I can read. In fact, I can read faster than you can speak. If you are reading me the slides, why do I need you? Why don't you just send them to me and save us both a bunch of time? I'd much rather you shared the information with me yourself instead of relying on the slides to do it. I want to hear what you think and feel about your topic.
2. If you are going to use slides, I'd like them to further explain or illustrate what you're saying rather than duplicate it. Show me graphs or charts or illustrations or pictures that make your information more memorable. And put headlines on the slides, like in the newspaper, so I get the main point before looking at all the detail.
3. Don't ask me to hold my questions until the end of your presentation. That makes it easier for you, not me. I want to get points clarified as we go along because otherwise I might not be able to stay attentive -- I'll still be puzzling over my question.
4. When I do ask you a question, please let me finish. Don't cut me off part way through because you know what I'm going to ask. It's just plain polite not to interrupt me. But it's also possible that you've made the wrong assumption about what I'm going to say. And then you'll be answering the wrong question. Oh yeah, don't check your notes or look at your watch while I'm asking my question. Please listen and look at me while I'm speaking. Again, it's just plain polite.
5. If you want me to be able to read your slides, please make sure the font size is big enough. If you have to squint to read them, think what it's like for me sitting at the back of the room. When you are preparing your slides, why don't you walk a distance away from the screen and see if they're still readable. I find a 32 point size works really well.
6. Please make eye contact with me and smile from time to time to show me that you're interested in both me and your topic. That makes it so much easier for me to be engaged with you. And if I'm engaged with you, I'll be more likely to understand and remember what you're saying.
7. If you're going to use examples or stories -- and I really hope you do -- please make them relevant to my experience and situation. That means you need to find out a bit about me before you present to me. What job do I do? What are my challenges? How will I use the information you are providing? What do I already know about your topic?
Well, that's probably enough feedback for now. There are some other things, but I don't want to overwhelm you. If you can incorporate these suggestions into your upcoming presentations, I and all my colleagues in audiences everywhere will be forever grateful.
flickr/Writing a Letter C.C. 2.0