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Life On Mars? 


If you have ever given a presentation you know how maddening it can be!

Over the years I have had to do quite a few, from simple ones to more complex ones, the last one I did involved 180 people across 5 buildings in 3 weeks.

The preparation alone took a month.  It involved handouts, and a powerpoint presentation, and also a full knowledge of what I was trying to get across.

But please explain to me, why after all that planning, setting up, arranging for people to actually turn up, and listen to what you have to say, do people insist on getting it wrong, to the point of willful stupidity??

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition

Lets be honest, if you have ever had the need/chance to set up training it can be a most invigorating experience, you sit down, decide how you ate going to do it, then how are you going to present it, write a basic script, re-write it, test it out on a few people, re-write it, then deliver it, and hope you get the desired response. But what I really hate, those people that think it’s easy, and oh yes, I am there to take pot shots at because you didn’t want to be here, you were forced to attend by your line manager, despite the fact that it is presentation on how to do your job.

Let me tell you what I mean, as I have stated, I work for a UK government funded private company, and one of our roles is to look after kids aged 13-19, a few years ago the government introduced a idea that all kids leaving school at 16, should have an offer of a place at further education or a job.  Laudable if not very far reaching. We were tasked with capturing information on all school leavers in our area,(approx 11K), and find out if they have something, help them find something, etc, this has to be done, on top of all other work, between Easter and the end of September.

Last year was the first year it was run nation wide, and to be honest, it was a joke, the company that supplies our software, didn’t give us the upgrades needed to do this till very late, the guidance on how to do it, had so many holes in it, you could drive a truck through it, so many areas of the country didn’t actually understand it, so much so, many ignored the guidance, and did it there own way. 
Then to cap it off a week before it was to be presented top government, it was shown to a group of us, who basically said that the figures were wrong, meaning we had to go back and do a lot of work, very quickly. So, in my infinite wisdom, I said, as the MI lead on the project in this area that I would do a presentation to all staff across the five offices to tell them what is expected of them this year. 

So, that is what I did, I sat down with last years guidance and wrote a presentation, including facts and figures of what happened, and handouts for people to have, and then when the new guidance came out, wrote bits of it, to show the difference between this year and last year.All in all I spent a month putting all this stuff together, then I presented it to 180 people across the five sites in 22 sessions in 3 weeks, and yes, I did three days where I did more than one session, in fact two days I did 4.

Daydream Believer

You have to understand something here, while it is a private company I work for, it has come out of many parts of local government, meaning that some people have been here for 20+ years, in some cases, a lot longer, so they do have an issue with new things, things that take them out of the comfort zone, or changes what they do.But hang on, wait a minute, this is what you do, you do this everyday, all this is doing is formalizing what you do, ensuring that we can clearly track this. Nope, that isn’t good enough.

I had one where I couldn’t get shot of a few people quick enough, they wanted to not only rip into what I was trying to do, but also taken it over to say how they didn’t agree with a whole host of things that was wrong with the company/system/paperwork etc etc.
Were was it written that I was there to be pot shotted at? You take the time and trouble to sort this out for their benefit, only to have it thrown in your face. Oh, and hang on, everyday I run reports to see where we are, how we are doing, and guess who is making the most errors???

Presentations are all well and good, but you also have to realise that sometimes the audience actually don’t want to listen, if they have been told to attend, that doesn’t make people want to listen or take part constructively.

Thanks for listening, and in the words of the late great Brandon Lee, ‘That’s only going to fire blanks right?’

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3 Comments

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  1. Gretchen Lindquist
    Jeff,
    That certainly sounds like a tough audience. There are many ways to get an audience engaged, but one key is to consider that everyone there listens to WII-FM — What’s In It For Me. Were I giving that presentation, I might have emphasized all the ways that the new program/process would save the listeners’ time, make their jobs easier, help them make better decisions, etc. Of course, if none of that is the case, or if you said all of that and they still did not care, you really do have a challenge on your hands!

    Gretchen

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  2. Darren Hague
    What a great, emotional look at life as a trainer/presenter! Thanks for writing this – I certainly recognise some of the traits you describe in people. 🙂
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