Michael Brunton-Spall     About     Archive     Feed

Boring Conference Sessions

2009-11-10 15:24:28 +0000

What do you do when you are at a conference and bored?  Do you start using the backchannel to start sniping at the presenters taste in clothing, presentation background, or speech idiosyncrinisities?  I've seen this at a number of conferences and I find this to be extremely unprofessional behaviour, especially in a public forum.  If you see my twitter feed, you will see that I might object to the content of a presentation, for example my dislike of Objective-C as a language.  However to object to a presentation because of the presenters choice of words to describe a fuzzy topic, or the quality of photography in their slides as I saw at a recent conference, is the epitome of rudeness. When somebody who is an expert in their field, has given up their time to attempt to share with you, picking holes in the format of the message rather than the content of the message is small-minded and rude.

So what should you be doing?  In my opinion what you should be doing is asking yourself one very important question - What is this presenter doing that is not keeping my attention?

As a sometime presenter I find myself analysing what good and poor presenters do.  I find myself looking to see what is irritating me, whether it be the presenters suit, or the way she keeps swearing, or the number of times he says Um.  But at the core I tend to find that if I'm focusing on how many times the presenter says Um it's because I've lost interest in the core topic.

There are a number of reasons that a presenter can lose my interest as a listener.  It could be that I'm just not interested in the topic, but a really good presenter might be able to keep me interested regardless.  It's more likely that the presenter is making a mistake in preparing and delivering the presentation.  this can be caused by

  • a lack of preperation, when a presenter doesn't know their material enough.
  • a lack of passion, when the presenter doesn't manage to enthuse me, because they don't seem enthused their selves
  • a lack of aim, when the presentation is clearly aimed at the wrong audience, like a code heavy presentation at a designers conference.

In a future presentation I'll cover what I try to do to prevent these from being a problem when I present, but for now I leave you with this question,

Why am I not interested in this presentation?