August 7, 2009

One of the main responsibilities of my job happens to be giving presentations – with “facilitating discussions” coming in close behind. The thing is, I hate presenting and facilitating. Always have, and probably always will. I also hate watching presentations, which may be why I dislike giving them. And being in a meeting that actually needs facilitating is pretty much the worst activity ever. Usually, I think both are pretty useless.

First, very few people actually get anything out of a presentation. It’s usually too much information, too fast, with too little interaction, in a setting where you have no application of what you’re learning. The best part of presentations are when they give you steps to actually do something (this usually also signals that it’s time to go). If there’s no interaction, why couldn’t you just send me an email with bullet points? Because I won’t read it? Well, maybe it’s because I don’t see why it’s important to me. But in my email, at least I can come back to it when it starts being important.

And presenting to an uninterested audience is a terrible experience. I am well aware that I am an awful audience member, and I always feel bad about it. Clearly, not bad enough to act interested, but bad enough that I always tell myself “I’ll be more engaged next time”. Not that it ever happens, but the thought counts, right? ‘A’ for effort?

And then, meetings, they should have few topics and goals. They should be as short as possible; apparently making people stand keeps them on task and more efficient. If the meeting requires no interaction, there shouldn’t be one. If it requires discussion or brainstorming or something similar, have everyone come with ideas prepared. No one should get off-topic because then you’re wasting everyone’s time.

I used to think that I just needed more practice. Obviously, I try to avoid these situations as much as possible, which leads to very little presenting/facilitating and a continued dislike for both activities. But after this week, I have done a significant amount of both. It was awful, and preparing for it, even worse. So my new goal is to find a revolutionary way to accomplish the same goals. It’s going to make me a big deal.


  1. Maybe it’s different between the business world and the academic world, but I love going to talks(at the least the ones I can understand).

    It’s great listening to people tell you about their work and new discoveries. And on the flip side, it’s always useful to have people challenge the stuff you’re presenting and make you think about it differently.

    • Ah, I can see the difference. Listening to a talk on a subject you just find interesting can be cool. When I go to that kind of talk, I usually 1) don’t really have to remember anything to apply later, and 2) I’m interested enough that I would read about it as well on my own. But being forced into presentations that only marginally apply to my job (even if those margin cases are super important) or will apply in 3 months, I’d rather be able to access that info when I need it than try to remember.

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