Few of us are natural presenters. When you combine that with a growing dependence on PowerPoint visuals that are full of bullet points, the likelihood is that we’ll all be seeing more bad or mediocre presentations than really good ones. Adding to the challenge of pulling off a good presentation is the rising expectation that audiences have for a presentation experience that is engaging (not boring) and informative – and perhaps being informative is not as essential as being memorable (having a style or presence that means audiences remember you even if they don’t remeber much of what you said).
I got to thinking about how these rising expectations apply to the academic library profession after reading a post by Dave Paradi. Are we expecting better presentations when we go to local meetings, national conferences and even participate in webcasts? Does someone going over a set of PowerPoint slides just not cut it anymore? What do we expect? Multimedia extravaganzas? Risky demonstrations? Paradi said:
Being a good presenter is not a matter today of being better than those who are poor presenters. It is a matter of being as good as the best presenters your audience has seen. In today’s world, we are not compared to just others in our own firm or industry, we are compared to the world’s best that we see and hear on TV or the internet.
I think Paradi makes a good point here. It is now much more common to find recorded presentations on the Internet, and many of them feature top notch presenters. Look for any presentation by Seth Godin or Sir Ken Robinson (at TED), just to name two examples of standout presenters. It’s downright rare to catch a presentation by a librarian that comes close to what these topnotch presenters accomplish. This is not a putdown of academic librarians as presenters; I’m certainly not much better than most (although I am working at trying to get away from or minimize text-dominated presentations). And in our defense most of the top presenters are able to refine their skills through the dozens of presentations they do annually. Many librarians present just a few times a year. It’s hard to achieve greatness at anything when you do it rarely. But if expectations are rising for better presentations then we need to start thinking about doing something to improve.
What do you think? Have your expectations for better presentations by academic librarians risen in the last year or two? Do you still tolerate a bad or mediocre presentation, or do you get up and walk out of the room – or just whip out your Blackberry or Treo to check you e-mail? Do you judge the presentations you see at library conferences against those you see elsewhere? If you have some thoughts share them by leaving a comment.
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