Presentation Pratfalls

This time of the year for me is chock full of presentations.  People stand before me holding sheaves of notes in one sweaty palm and microphones in the other.  The topics are either required by state law, already detailed ad nauseam in the employee handbook, or a favorite subject of someone in higher places.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to this presentation. I can't see the punchline in my notes because I'm wearing this mask to put the audience at ease. (photo of the author, by his doting wife).
I can’t see the punchline in my notes because I’m wearing this mask to put the audience at ease. (photo of the author, by his doting wife).

As such, this provides me with more than ample opportunity to critique individual presentation styles and keep score with my patented “OP-5” (One Point Perspective’s Presentation Pet Peeves).

In no special order, here are a few of my presentation pet peeves:

  • Power Point Border Patrol – In this scenario, the presenter has no idea how to give us the Power Point without the working border being visible to the audience.  People with good vision can actually read ahead in the slides on the left margin, assuming they are literate and awake.
  • An Old Fashioned Read-Along – This one really drives me insane.  The presenter puts together a presentation, and then reads it from the screen – verbatim – to the captive audience.  I have yet to sit in an audience where there were known illiterates, but if there were, these knuckleheads are only enabling them.
  • The Tongue Twister/Ear Acher – This involves rubbing salt in the wounds of the pre-annoyed victims of The Old Fashioned Read Along, wherein the presenter reads the presentation and butchers words with which they obviously have no familiarity.  This faux pas tends to take away credibility from the presenter  (For the record, it’s pronounced “fox pass”).  Mispronouncing words in your own presentation is the epitome of bad form (That one is epp-ee-tohm)
  • Such A Freaking Joke – There is some sort of public speaking wives’ tale which says that breaking the ice with a joke will put everyone at ease.  The audience is generally already pretty relaxed, sitting in chairs and waiting for the dog and pony show.  Obviously, the joke is only to put the presenter at ease, but it seldom works.  Telling jokes takes a little bit of talent and timing which many presenters simply do not possess.  In addition, there is the matter of the joke being worth telling in the first place.  Tapping the microphone and asking “Is this thing on?” will often result in ear splitting audio feedback.
  • If You Have To Ask… – Many presenters like to offer the audience the chance to ask questions, and this should be applauded.  One can only hope the presenter knows enough about the subject to actually be able to answer.  The pet peeve in this case is when the presenter forgets that he or she is the only one with a microphone and very few people in their audience can actually hear the question.  This renders the answer essentially meaningless.  This is easily remedied by having the person with the microphone repeat the question before answering it.  In the 16 presentations I attended this September, not one presenter employed this simple strategy.
  • There IS Such A Thing As A Stupid Question – Every so often, the audience member asking the question will be sitting close enough for others to actually hear it.  Unfortunately, some people have such enormous egos that they believe that there could possibly be one or more audience members who actually share the exact same problem as them.  As an example, an assembled crowd of four hundred employees are listening to a presentation about their new healthcare plan.  A person raises his hand and asks whether his preferred brand of toe nail fungus treatment will be covered under the prescription coverage.  Those in the audience who could actually hear the question can only stare in nauseated disbelief.
  • Smart Phone/Dumb Owner – This issue is far from being restricted to presentations, but it needs to be included.  Assemblies of employees are frequently interrupted by cell phones, usually those of audience members, sometimes the actual presenter.  When buying a new cell phone, customers should not leave the store without first finding out how to silence the device.  If you refuse to learn how to silence your smart phone, it should be mandatory that your ring tone be changed to “Hey! It’s for me, [insert name here]!  I’m too ignorant to silence my phone.”  This would be particularly embarrassing to anyone unfortunate enough to be named Insert Name Here.
  • It’s A Microphone, Not A Magic Scepter – This is pretty simple.  Microphones work to amplify the voice of the speaker.  The mike doesn’t work if the speaker’s gestures include pulling the device away from their faces. I’m sure someone in the tech department will read this and buy a few really expensive head-piece microphones to keep the big wheels from embarrassing themselves. You sir, are no Phil Donahue.
  • A Little Bit of This ‘An ‘At – We’ve all got our little speech idiosyncrasies.  For example, it’s accepted that teenagers of a certain era put the word “like” in between every couple of words.  Teenagers get a free pass, because correcting them will result in eye rolling and possible sulking.  If as an adult, you feel the need to refer to additional thoughts as “this an at” or to use the non-word “irregardless” throughout a presentation, you will incur my wrath.  I will keep score and draw non-flattering doodles of you in the margins of my hand-out.

In fairness, I should disclose that I myself gave several presentations to co-workers in early September on the basics of using a patient lift.  There was no Power Point and I didn’t use a microphone, so I able to avoid many of the fox passes I listed above.  I put my cell phone on silent and stayed away from jokes, deciding that the sight of me hoisted up in the sling would be comic relief enough.  Irregardless, I’m sure some of the audience members did not enjoy my presentation.

Photo by a bored, vengeful coworker. Smart phone alteration by the author. Does this sling make my butt look big?
Photo by a bored, vengeful coworker. Smart phone alteration by the author. Does this sling make my butt look big?



Shia, We Hardly Knew Ye

It’s all over the interweb, Shia LeBeouf is quitting public life!  If you’re like me, there are two questions which immediately spring to mind: 1) Who the hell is Shia LeBeouf? and 2) Why should someone like myself give a rat’s ass that I may never find out who the hell he is?

This is what he looks like.  Still, not even a flicker of recognition in my brain, maybe he looks different when he's fighting robots.  (Image from Wikipedia dot org)
This is what he looks like. Still, not even a flicker of recognition in my brain, maybe he looks different when he’s surrounded by robots. (Image from Wikipedia dot org)

A quick Google search has revealed that Shia (we’re on a first name basis now) is an actor.  For your edification, Shia is pronounced SHY-uh, and essentially rhymes with Hi-ya.  It’s odd that I discovered this just in time to say goodbye-ah.  With that name, he was bound to end up a thespian or a temperamental chef.

No soup for paparazzi!  (Image from screencrush dot com)
No soup for paparazzi! (Image from screencrush dot com)

Lebeouf got his start in a show on the Disney channel – and somehow I missed it!  Later, he went on to featured roles in quite a few flicks I’ve never seen, including all three of the toy-based block buster “Transformers” movies.  As a self-proclaimed old codger, I’m more interested in getting enough fiber in my diet than I am in seeing films about tractor trailers which transform into giant flying killer-robots.  Lebeouf was also featured in one of the fourteen Indiana Jones movies.  Once again, my taste in movies kept me from dropping ten bucks to see what death defying hijinx Harrison Ford was up to this time.  I’m not really an Indiana Jones fan anyway, but I’m pretty sure Shia did not play the cute little Asian kid in the mining car.

See!?  He looks like a Camaro, but he transforms into this cool killer robot thing, right?  Okay, so how do we fill the other 89 minutes of the movie?  (Image from tfcool dot com)
See!? He looks like a Camaro, but he transforms into this cool killer robot thing, right? Okay, so how do we fill the remaining 89 minutes of the movie? (Image from tfcool dot com)

Like many young actors, Shia’s been in a few scrapes with the law.  At one point, a neighbor was chatting with someone in his car and blocking Shia from getting into his driveway.  According to a witness, Shia rammed the guy’s car and threatened him.  In another instance, Shia supposedly got into trouble for not leaving a Chicago Walgreen’s when asked to do so by management.

Both of these unfortunate incidents must have made good fodder for the gossip rags.  Though I have never spoken with Shia about these two stories, I’m entitled to my opinions.  As for the first one, I feel bad for Lebeouf; if you’re getting blocked from accessing your own driveway, it damn well better be for a good reason.  Such reasons might include firefighters getting a kitten out of a tree or perhaps vindictive staffers of a politician having jammed up a certain bridge to send somebody a little message.  One could also be expected to accept traffic issues if a piece of earth moving equipment from a nearby construction site had transformed into a massive automaton with death-ray capabilities and was terrorizing the neighborhood.  If that yahoo from across the street was sitting there in his mid-life crisis Porsche chatting it up with his 26 year old piece of eye candy, then a little bumper ramming might have been in order.  As for the Walgreen’s incident, you’re on your own, Shia.  I’ve been in a few Walgreen’s and I don’t understand why anyone would want to stay in there one second longer than necessary – just pick up your anti-fungal cream and get the hell out.

Sorry about your driveway access, Shia.  You shoulda thought of that before you bought a multimillion dollar home in a town whose mayor doesn't want to play ball, know what I mean?  (Image from freedomoutpost dot com)
Sorry about your driveway access, pal. You shoulda thought of that before you bought a multimillion dollar home in a town whose mayor doesn’t want to play ball, know what I mean?  How about some baked goods, show you I’m not such a bad guy?  (Image from freedomoutpost dot com)

In any case, that’s the life of a movie star.  People follow you around and everything you do is under a microscope.  I can’t believe that no one ever told Shia about that clause in the job description.  I’m not sure he’s going to continue acting while avoiding the public eye, or just quit the Hollywood rat race entirely.  The answer to that question is surely somewhere in his statement about quitting public life.  To find out more, I’d have to go read it, and my attention to Lebeouf’s headlines would only fan the flames he’s trying to extinguish.  As for the irony of someone who’s in the public eye using that very same fame and media access to announce that he’s retiring from public life, I’ll leave that for a more clever writer to discuss.  I don’t have the time to write that post, I’ve got to contact my cable provider to find out why I don’t get the Disney channel.