Friday, 3 April 2009

Ten Cardinal Sins of Listeners

Ten cardinal sins of listeners (when they are in the audience for a presentation)

1. Check your e mail while somebody is presenting

This has to be at the top of the list. Checking email on blackberry or, worse still, on the laptop. Oh, its very polite. Tell the presenter you aren't one bit interested in what he is saying. I have seen many times, when somebody has flown 10 hours to be here and when the presentation starts, he is already fiddling with his blackberry. Why bother coming ?

2. Ask questions on Slide 1

Preempt the presenter by starting to talk before he does ! Ask all sorts of questions on Slide 1. Destroy his rhythm. Completely screw up his timing. Make him flip flop on his charts and his thoughts. Why not leave your questions till the last ? Let the presenter convey the message in the way he wants to . Listen. And then, after he has finished, ask your questions.

3. Flip the printed slides to see what is said on the last page

This is the problem with distributing printed decks. There is almost something irresistible about them. Your fingers are magnetically drawn to flipping over to the last page. Try and not open the deck. Listen to what the guy is saying.

4. Duck in and out

Walk in and out 17 times during the presentation. Take calls. Let your secretary interrupt you every 5 minutes. Not sure why you bothered to come for the presentation.

5. Nod off

Yes, I know - you had a sleepless flight last night. Still nodding of is not acceptable. Drink loads of coffee. Smoke like a chimney. Do whatever. But don't insult the presenter by nodding off. If you can't keep your eyes open, leave the room.

6. Point out the typo on the slide and crack a joke

Murphy's Law states that that every presentation has to have at least one typo. Don't compound the guy's misery by joking on it. Leave it be. Its not important to the message he is trying to convey.

7. Talk in a foreign language to another attendee

Cross talking is not polite during a presentation, but the worst is if you talk to your mate loudly in a language the presenter cannot understand. This is just downright rude and shows you are not a global citizen. If you must speak to another attendee, please do so in the language that everybody understands.

8. Look at the chart and not the presenter

Staring at the screen won't make you wiser. What the presenter is saying is more important than what's in the chart. Look at him. Encourage him with a nod. Make eye contact. You'll get his message better.

9. Your mobile gives a loud ring

Why is it that somebody's phone always goes off in every presentation. Is the silent mode so difficult to activate ? I wish there was a device that could automatically turn every mobile in the room to silent mode.

10. Doodle on the notepad

Another irresistible urge. Cover 5 pages full of intricate doodles in plain view of the presenter. Conveys a wonderful message to the presenter. Keep your hands firmly in the pocket. If you must take notes, do so quickly and get those hands back into the pocket.

In my experience, the more senior the member of the audience is, the more likely he is to be a listener from hell. What a pity.

Tomorrow, I'll post on presenting without Power Point to round off this series.

3 comments:

  1. Ramesh, you are "bang on" on all of them. Man, there are so many times during a meeting(presentation) that I have seen people tapping away at their keyboards. One of my clients, I was so upset with this culture with a big chunk of #7 (we had attendees from France, US and India, so you know)that I initiated a movement -"things not to do while in a meeting".Have to confess that did not sit too well with top management. I feel they think it is O.K to be carrying on in their own world while someone makes an effort to get a point across.

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  2. You missed out when listeners doze off like our ex-prime minister Deve Gowda. Irritating and insulting for presenter.

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  3. Blogueur - Thanks. Really irritating when people do that.

    Adesh - Oh yes the famous deve Gowda dozing. Consequence of having ragi balls for lunch and dinner !

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