Awkward presentation problems growing more frequent . . .

Stop Flailing in Public!

©Conrad Weisert
August 1, 2009

NOTE: This article may be reproduced and circulated freely, as long as the copyright credit is included.


flail: . . . 3. v.i. wave or swing wildly or erratically.
- Concise Oxford Dictionary

A growing problem

I often attend presentations that include a computer-based demonstration of some software or some process. They include formal courses, talks to professional or user groups, and sales presentations.

Lately more and more lecturers have been getting in trouble with some demonstration that doesn't go as they had expected. The most uncomfortable scenario for the audience is to watch the presenter embark on an extended trial-and-error attempt to recover. He may narrate what he's doing, offering cryptic explanations of what's happening, or, worse, he may proceed in silence typing commands and navigating with his mouse while the audience fidgets.

At that point we have a failed presentation. The lecturer may or may not eventually get back on track, but he has lost a large part of the audience. And if the problem occurs once, you can bet it will recur later in the same presentation.

A few guidelines

As experienced computer people, we may sympathize with the unfortunate lecturer who loses control of a demonstration, but there's really little excuse for wasting the time of a room full of people who are there to learn about a topic. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Rehearse your demonstration thoroughly on the equipment you're going to use:
  2. Unless you need to show animation, prefer presentation slides to software interaction:
  3. If something doesn't work as you expect:


Last modified August 1, 2009

Return to IDI home page
Professional Education articles