5 Easy Ways to Discombobulate a Presenter

Definition: verb (used with object), discombobulated, discombobulating.

[dis-kuh m-bob-yuh-leyt]

- To confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate: feeling disconnected or unbalanced.

E.g., The speaker was completely discombobulated by the hecklers.

The purpose of this article is to ensure that people responsible for organizing presentations are made aware of some of the problems that can be caused by a lack of psychological training in this area, and its application in the real world, so that they can take appropriate action to ensure that the presentations they are responsible for are successful.

In previous articles, I have talked about how everyone involved in a communicative event, be it a presentation, training course, meeting, etc., arrives with preconceived ideas and expectations about what will happen, the location, the type of interaction, the people, unspoken norms of behaviour (both verbal & non-verbal) and many other elements. All these are based on their previous experience, knowledge, education, culture, etc. When these expectations are not reached – especially in a presentation context, it can seriously affect the clarity of the communication and the perception of the presenter and their message.

This was brought home to me last week when I attended a series of three presentations in the headquarters of a major telecommunications organization in Spain. The speakers were worldwide Subject Matter Experts in their areas of specialization. I must declare that I am a friend of one of the presenters in this event.

The main discombobulators in this event were:

(1) Room set-up.

- The initial site chosen for the presentations was a “standard format” room: The presenter at the front of the room and the audience in front of them. There was a full range of audiovisual support available and was what I believe to be a typical presentation set up. This is the “traditional” type of room where many presenters have accumulated much of their experience and generally tend to expect this type of venue.

In the case used as an example in this article, the room was perceived as being too small for the expected audience. So, at the last minute it was decided to change the presentation site to a different room which was an unusual design.

To give you an idea of the room set-up The screen was in the centre of the room with a wing on either side which restricted the vision of the presenter to the audience immediately in front of them, unless they moved so far forward that they were almost among the front row of the audience.

(2) No computer in front of the Presenter, only behind them.

The computer which the presenters were to use was on a lectern at the back of the stage which, had it been used, would have made it impossible for the presenters use orientation, proximity, gaze and other non verbal elements to enhance their communicative competence with the audience. All three presenters decided NOT to use it and as a result they were continually looking at the screen to see what was being shown and not focussing on the audience and reading their non-verbal communication.

There are three possible options to resolve this problem:

1. Have a monitor on the floor in front of the presenter so that they can see the screen easily.

2. Have a monitor suspended from the ceiling for the same reason as in #1.

3. Have a laptop computer on a table placed where the presenter wants it NOT where it is most convenient for the organization. This is the easiest, low-cost option!

(3) Focus on the screen and NOT on the Presenter.

The attitude of the organizers appeared to be that it is the screen that is the be-all-and-end-all of the presentation and that the presenter was a mere adjunct to the material instead of the other way around. This attitude was reinforced by the fact that there were two large screen monitor directed towards the audience located on each wing of the room.

It is the presenter and their verbal & non verbal communication that are the most important parts of the presentation. The content on the screen are known as “Visual Aids” – The word “Aid” should not be confused with “substitute”!

It might be more productive to have the presenter on the monitors instead of their slides!

(4) Wifi / Cloud storage / problems.

There were problems with the wifi system. It appeared that one or more of the presenters had intended to use a presentation located in the “cloud” – However, in the first presentation, the problems were sufficiently serious to interrupt the flow of the presentation and discombobulate the presenter. Based on this experience, it is worth reminding everyone that it is better to take your presentation with you in a pen drive rather than trust that you will have the ability to access it in the cloud.

(5) Timing, Seating & Problem solutions.

The session was scheduled to run from 17:00h to 21:00h. Normally, one would expect a break after each presentation or half-way through so that both the audience and the presenters can relax somewhat, stretch their legs and psychologically process the content / messages communicated during the presentation which generally leads to greater retention of the content. A short break also allows the following presenters to find solutions to the problems they have identified during the previous presentation(s).

As an aside and on a personal note, the seats were also uncomfortable, especially for four hours!

Consequences:

1. The first presenter was walking up and down the width of the auditorium like a caged lion; frequently turning to see what was on the screen, turning their back on one side of the audience and then on the other. In general, their non-verbal communication (gaze, orientation and posture) were not a true reflection of their skills.They appeared to be producing extremely high levels of adrenalin, testosterone which results in lower levels of cortisol due to the stress caused in this environment.

2. The second and third presenters were more anchored in their preferred presentation point which meant that the audience were more focussed on them so that the content of their communication (visual, verbal and non-verbal) entered into their subconscious mind via their peripheral vision. However, it appeared that both presenters were discombobulated by the environment. This resulted in the audience members seated on both sides had greater problems seeing the presenters.

It must be stated that ALL of the Presenter did an excellent job bearing in mind the unexpected and unnecessary problems encountered in the presentation site. I am sure that in a “normal” presentation site where the organizers are aware of, and have taken steps to ensure the correct application of, the psychological elements related to presentations, the presentations would have been much better.

There are many other elements that can discombobulate presenters, trainers, meeting leaders, facilitators, etc., for additional information, please feel free to contact me.

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The author has been in love with languages and communication since the age of 11. He has spent most of an interesting and colourful life being involved with languages: learning, teaching, research and Investigation, and then extending his knowledge into other areas such as Kinesics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, adult education, ericksonian hypnosis, Neuro Linguistic Programming and a range of other areas. Most of his clients are in the Healthcare, Information systems, Grand consumption, travel & transport, Food, drink and Hostelry industries and also politics.

The Difference Between a Persuasive and an Informative Presentation

There are a number of reasons as to why experts host presentations. The main type of presentations held can normally fall into two different categories, persuasive and informative.

What Is The Purpose of a Persuasive Presentation?

Presentations can be held in order to promote a particular service or product, presentations such as these would fall into the persuasive category. The reason for this is that the presentation would be hosted to explain the benefits of the product, message or service. Within the presentation, it would be up to the host to highlight then benefits while still ensuring that rich content that the audience wants to hear is being delivered.

The success of such a presentation can be measured by how many people make a purchase, employs a service or join a cause. Similarly, if the presentation is for a proposal, then the success can be determined as to whether or not you received the approval you need.

What Is The Purpose of an Informative Presentation?

Informative presentations tend to deal with training or education. There can be elements of a persuasive presentation intertwined. For example, a teacher may need to persuade his students that the subject is worth learning about. But the main objective of such a presentation is for people to absorb and retain information.

Research can be another important aspect of an informative presentation. A business may have carried out market research in relation to their business, and a presentation could be held to deliver such information to members of staff. As a result of the presentation, a decision would then need to be made in light of the information. A successful presentation of this type can be measured by the outcome of the decision, and how it was implemented using the information to hand.

The success of such presentations can be difficult to monitor unless there is a test or exercise that follows the presentation. In this regard, if the test results are high, then you can assume that your informative presentation was a success.

Although both presentations are different in what they have to offer, they do share similar characteristics. For example, both should have a clear goal as to what they want to inform their audience about. With this in mind, it is important that the presentation is tailored around your audience and they are able to fully understand your content. If you happen to host a presentation that falls into either category, you should ensure that you encourage the audience to participate by adding a question and answer session, or something similar.

Both types of presentation are also likely to involve a problem and solution section. Within a persuasive presentation, it is likely that the host will present a problem, then tailor their solution with a product or service. The problem and solution section may not seem so apparent within an informative presentation, but there could be a section that focuses on overcoming problems. For example, a business may highlight the problem of poor customer service.

Outlining the benefits of any product or service you are selling is paramount for persuasive presentations. Customers like to have a clear outline of how your product or service can solve their problem and what they can gain from their purchase. Outlining benefits is not at the forefront of an informative presentation, but the content itself may be beneficial to your audience, so in this regard, you would also look to sell the benefits of the very information you are relaying to your audience.

Emotions play a large part of persuasive presentations. In fact, studies have shown that very few people are able to make a purchase without feeling good about it. So when it comes to delivering a persuasive presentation, your ability to ignite human interaction and emotion should be one of your main focuses. Evidently informative presentations can also have emotion involved, but this can differ depending on the presentation.

Trust is the drive behind both types of presentation. If your audience doesn’t have faith in you, then they won’t have faith in your product. As you can imagine, a lack of faith can lead to a lack of sales. In order for the audience to commit to your product, then they must be able to trust the presenters, and feel comfortable that other audience members feel the same. Testimonials, reviews and previous successes are a large driving force behind a person’s trust.

Many presentations will be tailored to a specific audience, so you may find that different presentations may include different factors from both informative and persuasive presentations. Both types of presentation should include a call-to-action towards the end. This could be to buy a product, contribute or for the audience to put what they have learned into practice.