What are the Barriers to a Killer Presentation?

Last weekend, I spent two days in meeting rooms in New Delhi. On Sunday afternoon, when all was said and done, I began to crunch the numbers on the post-session evaluation forms.

Yes, I know that such Level 1 “smile sheets” are greeted with a range of emotions – from polite dismissal to outright disdain – among many training professionals (myself included). They don’t, after all, provide much insight into the long term impact of a training program. They do, however, offer some insights as to the effectiveness of the delivery of the content.

In addition to the standard “This session offered new insights, information and/or ideas” question in which participants rank the speakers on a scale of 1-5, we added a second set of questions to assess net promoter scores (basically a question for each session that asked: “would you put your reputation on the line and recommend this session to your colleagues in the industry?”).

We’re still trying to sift through the data and make sense of it all, but one thing is for certain: the scores for our sessions this year were all over the place. This led me to ask a question: what is preventing our speakers from delivering killer presentations every time they get in front of the room? It’s something we’ll be looking in to over the coming weeks.

While we look into this question, I’m curious about your thoughts. Take a minute to respond to the following poll question about what you feel prevents you (or others you work with) from delivering a killer presentation.


Over the next week or two, I’ll be looking through the results of this poll as well as some of the data gleaned from this past weekend’s meeting in Delhi to begin addressing some of these barriers to that elusive amazing presentation. Stay tuned for a rockin’ upcoing blog post that can help promote the next generation of killer presentations!

6 thoughts on “What are the Barriers to a Killer Presentation?

  1. Thanks for starting another interesting debate Brian.

    I can forgive a lot of the ‘deadly sins’ of presentation such as dire PowerPoints, uhms and uhs and so on if the speaker has a compelling message. In fact I can think of one presenter who verges on the annoying at first, until you are drawn into the content and forget all the peripherals. This presenter knows their area of expertise well and engages you through various means, especially story-telling. Don’t get me wrong, I still spend hours on my own visual effects be they PP, flipchart or hand-outs.

    As an attendee my biggest issue is leaving an event thinking “What was that REALLY about?” As presenters we need to accept that a lot of what we present is ‘left in the room’. I like to start planning with one key learning objective that everyone will leave with, even if they forget everything else. Add to that two or three subsidiary points and don’t attempt a brain dump.

    I then do plenty of preparation and rehearsal, and employ a personal strategy that prepares me physically and mentally to present in an impactful manner. (There is a good TED talk on that.)

    • That’s a great point Nick. Perhaps I should have added another option on the poll: “Speaker tries to accomplish too much within the given timeframe.” This is one of the biggest issues I see day in and day out – a speaker who believes in his/her content so passionately that they’ll try to make everyone else in the room an expert on ALL areas within 60 minutes. It can’t be done.

      Like you said, it all begins with the question: what one thing should people walk away with when I’m done?

  2. I think it is important to ask the participants to evaluate THEMSELVES during the course. What effect did their engagement (or lack of) have on their view of the course? If they were distracted by work, being a “prisoner” or had no support from their manager, could this have filtered the way they perceived the course?

    • Priscilla – I agree with that. It’s funny, I think this might have been the first time in a while we didn’t use two questions at the end of the form asking participants to rank their level of engagement and the level of engagement they perceived their fellow attendees had.

      That said, there are a lot of participants who will show up eager to learn something new, only to be greeted by a poorly delivered (or designed?) presentation.

      I’ve seen firsthand how a well-delivered presentation can win over some participants who have been shipped off to a workshop as a prisoner against their own will. Those are some of my favorite comments: “Honestly, I didn’t want to be here, I thought I knew everything there was to know about this topic, but my boss told me I had to go. And it turns out, the way you delivered this presentation, I indeed did learn something new.”

      That won’t happen every time, but it could happen more often!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.