In the course of my career I’ve been to (and still go to) a LOT of conferences and I’m always amazed at how bad these presentations are. They’re horribly planned and horribly demonstrated. They waste time and tell WAY too many personal stories. I don’t understand why good presenters are so few and far between. They have to work a whole 16 hours a week, and yet I’ve never been to a conference where the presenter arrives on time and leaves on time. I’ve never been to a conference where the presenter has a real idea of what they’re going to talk about. Most of the questions I ask are met with , “I’m not sure. I’ll have to look into that.”
Here’s how it always goes:
- 30 minutes of the presenter talking about themselves
- 20-30 minutes of “let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves”.
- We start with an open-ended question and think about it.
- Then we talk in a group.
- Then we talk in a large group.
- Then the presenter talks about her answer to the question. This introduces the group to the idea of the conference. That’s right; about two hours in is when we start talking about the thing we’re paying to talk about.
Usually from here the audience receives packets of information; it’s never anything I couldn’t find by searching for the topic on the internet. For instance, I recently went to a conference on mutual fund investment using something called the “seven-twelve” model. I received this. If you Google “seven twelve”, this is literally the first thing that comes up.
I’ve never been to a conference where they don’t include a lot of “discussion time”, which basically means, “I really have nothing more to say. Maybe you do.” After that, there are a few questions that they don’t know the answers to, then lunch, and then everyone sits silently trying not to nap until it’s time to go home (which always happens to be a half-hour early).
As an audience member, it’s awful, repetitive, and boring. As a presenter, though, it’s gotta be awesome.
Imagine a job where you work about 20 weeks a year but you get paid for 52, a job where you spend the majority of your time doing whatever you want, a job where your performance is expected to be awful, repetitive, and boring. That’d be the best job in the world. Take your job right now – say a lawyer – where you get paid regardless of how many clients you have and regardless of how many cases you win. As a matter of fact, you’re not even expected to win cases; I mean, if you do, that’s great, but since almost no lawyer wins any case, you’re right on par.
Or what if you’re a roofer: you show up when you show up, get paid in advance, and if the house only leaks a little bit, you’ve done your job well.
Waitaminute. That’s called a contractor. And the lawyer equivalent is the attorney mentioned in the Miranda Rights. Is there a “presenter equivalent” for every career field?
You have doctors who are expected to do fix their patient every time right away; you then have psychologists who are expected to fix their patients about 10% of the time over a 15-year period.
You have money managers who are expected to keep track of every cent going in and out at all times; you then have investment advisors who are expected to make their clients the same amount of money as if they had gone to the dog track.
You have the President who is not expected to make any mistake on anything ever; you then have member of congress who are expected to get nothing done (and in all likelihood screw things up more).
I wonder what the comic book equivalent is?
Once I figure it out, I wonder how I can get into this line of work?
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