Don’t Start Your Presentation by Admitting You’re Unprepared

I once saw a speaker start a presentation by saying, “When I did my research for this presentation, just now in the parking lot, I found that…” With that line, he instantly undermined his credibility and caused his audience to question whatever he said next, if they were still listening to him.

Was he trying to sound “authentic” or to be funny, or worse, was he telling the truth? Whatever his reason, as an experienced professional, he should have known better than to start by announcing that this speaking engagement was not important enough for him to take the time to research the group and the topic.

It was insulting to the audience and to the people who had brought him in (and paid him) as a subject matter expert.  (And no, this was not a last-minute engagement; he had plenty of time to prepare.)

Even it were true that he hadn’t made the time to prepare his remarks or customize them to this specific group, why would he broadcast his ignorance of the topic and his lack of preparation to the audience? At the very least, they would be unimpressed and at the very worst, they would be offended and stop listening to him.

I would have thought these best practices about presentation skills were obvious: Prepare your presentation ahead of time.  Don’t insult your audience.  Don’t start your presentation by admitting you’re unprepared. 

How was the rest of his presentation? I don’t know – I stopped listening.  But I doubt it got better from there.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

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