Thursday, December 10, 2009

When staying awake becomes a serious problem...

I wrote this entry while I was in Kerala on a junket, recently. Thought I'd reproduce it on my blog.

Conferences / seminars are always so interesting...NOT. I'm here on a perfectly lovely Wednesday morning in Trivandrum, trying to keep my eyes open in a workshop,that doesn't remotely concern me. Why am I here, then? Don't ask me, ask the PR person who invited me. In my defense, however, I'm doing a perfectly convincing act of taking down long-winded notes. So is everyone else. It's impossible to stay awake through this endless droning.

Why are Indian speakers (very broadly speaking) so terrible at addressing audiences? Why is it that they cannot keep up their audiences' attention for more than three minutes? Most people begin with reading out reams and reams of literature, hoping it will make up for the lack of enthusiasm on their part. And as if reading out volumes of text isn't bad enough, there is the variety that will support the endless droning with slides and slides data.

For instance, "In 1994, our organisation had achieved only 34% growth,which jumped to 61% in 2001. However, we weren't satisfied with this growth percentage, hence, our target for the next five years is to achieve at least 54.7% growth."

Excuse me, but all I heard was "Blah, blah, yak, yak". What's your point? Did anyone tell you, mister,that no one cares a rat's ass about your data? Can you stick to whole words and less numbers unless absolutely necessary?

There's a third type of speaker one often sees: the nervous type. This type is so obviously pissing its lacy panties, that they even have no idea what they end up blabbering about. Add to that, they even mess up their technology and end up displaying the wrong slides to the wrong headings.

When will people learn that seeming effortless and well-prepared with your material is the key?

As a favour to the world, I'm taking the responsibility on mine young shoulders to enlighten the public speakers of the future, with a few home-truths:

1) Make your session interactive. Ask your audience some trivia related to your topic, perhaps? It helps them keep awake and interested.

2) Talk to audience. Maintain eye contact. This helps them know that you're talking to them and not at them.

3) Do NOT read aloud, whatever you do. If reading out is all you're going to do, just hand over your literature to your audience and let them read it. It might be more interesting, anyway.

4) Cite as many examples as you can to support the point you're trying to make. Or ask the audience to come up with some. Examples help retain your proposition better, in the minds of the audiences.

5) Keep it simple, stupid! Avoid too much technical jargon unless absolutely vital. It is one of the reasons why your talk becomes a snoozefest.

6) Try reducing your talk to a maximum time limit of about 20 minutes to half an hour. Trust me, attention tends to wander beyond that. So unless you know that your presentation is going to receive nothing short of a standing ovation, don't drone on and on. And yeah, if you look like Bradley Cooper, you can talk for as long as you want!

7) Lastly, inviting your audience to be a part of your presentation is most important. No one likes listening to someone who loves the sound of his own voice. Believe that your presentation must get the attention it deserves. Once that is achieved, you have to take the effort to make people want to listen to you. It sure will take a lot of hard work from your side, but then, who said it was easy?

Whew. I'm done with all my gyaan, folks. Now, back to the very lovely speakers who are carefully disobeying my carefully put together advice!


Anonymous said...

Can I add a few of my own?

*show some random funny vdos in between. it might help the drooling eyes to open up.

*announce at the beginning of ur speech that 'the free snacks' will be distributed just after ur talk on a first come first serve basis. and also mention tat last time many guests didn't get any.

ur list is almost full-proof. cudn't think of anything more to add. well written.

WiseAss said...

Re: point #1. Some people go to awful extremes when trying to be interactive. There was a girl in my media class who began EVERY presentation with a set of five questions to throw at the bored audience. She would sport this indulgent mama smile and actually wait till somebody deigned to answer. Moh and I still call her the Derek O'Brien of the year. After the short quiz, she would proceed to drone on and on and o....zzzzzzz.

My Foot? said...

Oh poor you! This should be included in all those big, fancy, drill-a-hole-through-your-bank-savings courses. You should make a presentation about presentations and seminars!

In the end, the boring ones will do it their own, sweet, boring way. Atleast its better than the big talks we used to sit through, in the school hall. The floor was always so cold :'( .

(CAPTCHA made me type 'kinconge')

Mugger Much said...

About boring Indian speakers, that's so true! I mean, we were listening to an audio feed from the Copenhagen climate meet in class (don't ask, sigh), and we were trying to guess which countries which speakers were from.
As you might have guessed, the speakers with the most boring speeches were from South Asia (India, Maldives, Bangladesh). God, what's with the snore-fests that we cook up each and every time. I wanted to poke my eyes out with an eraser.

Sorcerer said...

its like capital punishment for me!!

Varun said...

Couldn't read it completely. . .drooled in

Sakshi said...

great pointers!!!

Anonymous said...

I've been harangued enough by technical speakers at several seminars - so much that I tend to skip parts or simply walk out on stuff that's boring.

I think the problem is in part due to our hold over the English language which is only reasonably good for many people - a mere working knowlegde for most, and in large part because of no emphasis on presenting our work when growing up.