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.

Home Entertaining and Catering Presentations

When you entertain at your home, it’s easy to show your food in beautiful bowls or on gorgeous platters. If you take food to someone else’s home, most people bring food in disposable plastic or aluminum containers. Plastic and aluminum are not usually eye-popping and your food doesn’t stand out until they taste it. No matter what dishes are used, presentation will make all the difference in the impression that your table will make.

Presentation can mean many things: table cloths, centerpieces, food holders, table accessories. 

1.   Let’s talk table cloths. These can be plain white or colored for the occasion. They can be a single layer or overlaid lace. You can put boxes or other sturdy items under the cloth to elevate some food above others. Food can be grouped on different color cloths for division; ie… a Christmas party may have appetizers on green cloths, entrĂ©es on red, desserts on gold and drinks on white.

2.      As for centerpieces, these can be flowers, candles, fountains, themed vases/pitchers, tiered holders for theme items (such as baby accessories at a baby shower). Your imagination makes these opportunities endless.

3.     Food holders can be a mix of things. I use my cream dishes for an elegant look. But, the majority of my parties use colored aluminum, colored plastic wrap, or non-disposable plastic serving items; all of which give a thoroughly delightful look to a table. Plastic serving items are light, colorful and easy to transport.

4.      Table accessories are unlimited. These can be colorful utensils, name placards for menu items, cut fruit/veggies for eating/displaying, clever holders for silver/plastic ware, or nonsensical theme items (holiday decorations, special salt/pepper shakers, little gifts for guests to take home) placed around the food.

However you wish to display the table, use a theme or color scheme and your guests will rave over the food and presentation. Oooh’s and aahhh’s are just as good as getting paid, well, almost. Please visit my blog at www.homebasedcatering.blogspot.com.

Sending Presents This Christmas

It seems that Christmas adverts are starting to creep on our screens earlier and earlier every year, even at this time of the year shops are filled with Christmas promotions and products. It seems the nation goes into frenzy in the early months of autumn and winter trying to buy there presents earlier than ever. Also as the holiday season approaches many high street shops start raising their prices as they know people will be hammering the stores as soon as the Christmas adverts hit our screens, but there are many ways you can save this Christmas.

One of the main problems with people starting their Christmas buying early, is that the postal service’s start getting rammed as early as October. However there are many solutions to getting your presents around the world reliably and on time and comes in the form of parcel delivery couriers. In the last few years the amount of online parcel companies offering personal and dependable services has increased rapidly. You no longer have to rely on the royal mail to send gifts to your friends and family, or have to wait in hour long queues at the local post office. With parcel couriers you can expect only the most superior service as they know the needs and wants of their customers. With many families having friends and relatives living abroad these days sending their presents via parcel delivery companies is almost essential during the busy seasons.

Sending your presents and packages ahead this Christmas is a clever option as not only will you have ease of mind that your gifts will arrive on time, but the prices of delivery are also a lot cheaper. There will be millions of people looking to send their parcels, cards and letters at Christmas time especially late December so prices will rocket above the norm, and you could end up spending a small fortune just getting your presents to loved ones, before the excess spending on food and decorations. Parcel delivery will be considerably cheaper if you send them earlier. There are so many benefits of using parcel delivery couriers this Christmas, including parcel tracking, personal pickups and even insurance. With so many parcel courier companies now offering service online, you don’t have to look far to find a service that is great for you. Let this Christmas be stress free and sue a parcel courier to send your packages to loved ones around the world.