Now that we’ve all been through the spring and fall conference mania with the InHOWse Conference, GAIN and everything in between, I believe it’s important to debunk a misperception prevalent particularly among younger attendees – that presenters have it all together and are walking talking success stories. Lest anyone think that I’m taking capricious potshots at our successful peers, I openly include myself in this crowd.
Just like every other human being on the planet, speakers are all about looking good. Mix that need in with the appropriate rationale that a presentation that focuses on a success story may help others replicate that success and you end up with seminars that accentuate the positive and deemphasize the negative.
There are 2 problems with this presentation paradigm. First, it may devalue the legitimacy of the presentation because of its lack of believability and applicability to the audiences’ circumstances. Second, if all is to be believed, the talk may set an unrealistically high bar for success for the audience and leave them feeling impotent and demoralized.
I, for one, do very much like to look good – especially in front of a large group of my peers. I also feel privileged to share insights that may help my fellow in-house designers. But, for the record, I’d like to say that I screw up multiple times on any given day and I don’t always follow my own advice. I believe the same to be true for my presenter peers.
To the presenters, I’d recommend throwing in some qualifiers to place their successes into a realistic context. To those in the audience, a healthy dose of skepticism and suspended disbelief will help you walk away with valuable insights and personal next steps. At the end of the day, as our business colleagues like to say, the onus is on both the speaker and the speakee to meet halfway and take responsibility for making the presentation a success.