Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

The Danger Of Longevity


Sometimes you see a confident presenter really bomb. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, the contrast is vast. If they are totally hopeless and they bomb, well that is understandable. But a competent presenter bombing shouldn’t occur. It did and I was wondering why that happened? Where did our speaker go wrong?

Comedians have this same problem – no one laughs at their jokes and there is not much camouflage for them to hide behind, when all they have is a microphone stand on a stage. Being in the limelight, at the podium, on stage, up on the dais is a pressure location. When you are revealed to everyone as a flop all your desperate attempts to refloat the Titanic, make the whole thing seem even more preposterous and pathetic.
In this case, there wasn’t even a good recognition that things were rapidly going south. It was only at the end, when it was too late to do anything about it, that the speaker realised he had bombed completely. The tepid applause reaction was a give away. The lack of questions a more immediate one. The whole apparatus of the talk collapsed in on itself, under the weight of its own ineptitude.
The issues were a misreading of the audience and an arrogance. The audience had been lured to the venue with bold promises of goodness and light. The content wasn’t good enough to back up the advertising and the audience spotted the gap straight away. They were there for answers. There weren’t any and they knew it.
The arrogance was an assumption about the speaker’s credibility being sufficient to justify the content of the presentation. When we emphasise the years in business, we are aiming for increased credibility, linked back to our stupendous track record. We have stood the test of time etc. Our speaker had not properly prepared the presentation. He gave it a "once over lightly" treatment, because of his supreme confidence in his ability to deliver the talk. He was a good speaker and a competent presenter. He thought his track record stood for itself. The only problem was the content of the talk was rubbish.
We tread a fine line with the longevity thing. Track record, sustained over many, many years is a credible thing for the audience. The only concerns are that the whole affair may be perceived as dated. We are always being fed the new and greatest, latest best thing. Business fad books come and come and come. The old ones are taken out the back and quietly disappeared. When we talk about the good old days we like it because we were there, but the audience only cares about what is the relevance for them. We have to be skilled to make it fresh, new and connected to their current business reality.
Our speaker failed in that regard. I said arrogance and this is the bit that hurts. Our pride in our track record can make us blind to the fact that people don’t really care all that much. We like strolling down memory lane, but so what. We arrogantly assume that what we did was important. Wrong. Where is the link to the audience’s current problem right now? We have to keep building that connection. The successes of the past help us to prepare for the future. The failures of the past, help us to prepare for the future.
This is the skillset needed in a speech presentation. Getting the audience need properly understood, suspending what we like to talk about and instead focusing on what the audience is keen to know about is our task. If we fail to get that balance right, we can come across as dated. This is what happened to our speaker. He delivered a brilliant rendition of his past glories and achievements, without effectively connecting to the audience’s concerns of today.
I am getting older too, so I took copious notes from this speech on what not to do, if I am ever tempted to talk at length about my good old days. I think we all should avoid that temptation too.



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