Presenting in the Classroom – All for One is not One for All

Drum Roll Please.  Results from our “What Makes You Run from the Classroom”.  

The results of this three question, unscientific,  “scratch the surface” survey has been interesting and makes me consider building another one that takes a deeper dive regarding classroom facilitation. And now that the ASTD International Conference and Expo is just around the corner, the results of this survey is timely.

There were 136 responses.  I did not break it down by demographic.  I just wanted to know what people thought about common classroom missteps, how badly do these missteps affect the audience? Just the fact’s ma’am!

Presentation_talkingThe first question was based on presentation skills. There were no surprises here.

Receiving the highest marks – meaning more people felt this had the potential to ruin the experience:

1. “Preaching” rather than teaching”:  We have all been there the presenter is “Kicking a dead horse” or “Preaching to the Choir”. We need to be aware of when we cross the teaching to preaching line and move on.

2.  “Presenter talks to (or reads) the slides”.  This surprised me, I thought this would top our list of things we hate the most, and it certainly tops my list.  Apparently we hate to be “preached” at more.

3.  “Presenter is a “know-it-all”.  I recently overheard a conversation, a group of young adults had seemingly coming from a training session.  They were talking about the presenter: Person A: “You couldn’t get a word in edgewise”.  Person B “What did it matter, if you weren’t agreeing with him he didn’t want to hear from you anyway.” This conversation actually happened, talk about serendipity!  Remember your audience has thoughts too, and they may not agree with you open up that conversation it may be the most interesting thing that happens all day.

**Runner-up almost tied with #3 – “Didn’t allow for interactivity”. Didn’t involve the audience”. This means interact with you and the conversation. Debate a topic, Ask more open-ended questions to stimulate conversation.

On the bottom – Things I thought people would care about, but really don’t. (Well, not enough to annoy them anyway)

1.  “Presenter only stays behind the lectern”.  I was really surprised here.  I hate it when a presenter doesn’t move.  I get bored.  Just goes to show one man’s ceiling…

2.  “Presenter walks around too much”.  This made sense to me (see above comment).

3.  “Presenter has distracting hands motions”.  Again, I was intrigued. Every single presentation course makes this a high priority “teaching” moment.  “Don’t move your hands around too much. It’s distracting! People hate it!  Well, apparently not so much – perhaps we need to focus more on not “preaching”.

presention_PPT_DilbertThe second question was about the presentation itself and course materials.  Again, no real surprises of the topics that made the top three.


1.  “Slides have too much text/font is too small”.  Do I really have to beat a dead horse here? If you have to say, “I know those of you in the back will have trouble reading this slide…” then you need to rewrite the slide.  JUST.STOP.IT.

2.  “Silly or random games”. Games need a purpose. The best games can be tied back to the lesson, throughout the lesson – “Remember the exercise we did before lunch? This is a good example of how the lesson applies.” 

3.  “Too many slides”.  To me, 5 slides are too many slides if all you display are excel spreadsheets.  It’s all about content. Your tip for the day – Hide the slide numbers on the deck.  Especially do not use the “slide X out of Y” formatting.  How painful is it to know that you are only on slide 20 out of 250.  YIKES.

 On the bottom – people are not bothered by the following:

1. If you don’t give them a handout of the deck.  Good, save some trees.

2. If you skip a few slides.  Just don’t make a big deal out of it.

3. If they cannot read the writing on a flip chart.  This one surprised me too.  If the presenter is going to write on a flip chart make it legible.  As professionals, if we are going to take the time to write something down, – then people should be able to read it.

Presentation_informationThe third and last question was just general presentation stuff.  At the top of the annoyance list:


1. “Too much information for one session”.  Cramming a 10 pound of potatoes into a 5 pound sack. I know it’s all important but part of teaching is building a connection between the audience and the topic.  If you speed talk, you can’t do that.

2.  “Running out of time”.  I agree.  Practice your presentation and allow 10% buffer time for questions you didn’t anticipate.

3.  “Not starting on time”.  Groan!  When a presenter says, “We will wait a few minutes for others to arrive” they are conveying a lack of respect to those who made the effort to arrive on time.

Sitting on the bottom – it’s clear that people don’t care for the following: 

1.  Handouts.  If you have them fine, if not – that’s okay too.

2.  “Evaluations not online”.  Not a deal breaker.

3.  “Poorly constructed evaluations“.  A better question may have been – “Not receiving an evaluation”.  I am wondering if the audience feels evaluations are important.  Topic for another day.

top10Now for the fun stuff. 10 comments about presentations I found interesting. 


1.  Inappropriate framing – ‘you’ll enjoy this’. Telling the audience, after lunch, this is the graveyard shift. What’s said in the room, stays in the room – how do we share good practice then? Mood music Contrived exercises – too much pair and share (Good point about the “graveyard shift” – why set yourself up for failure?”

2. Dark room (only light projector), presenter sitting down walking through the new system at a pace that would imply we knew it already… in a monotone voice just to add to the whole experience (true story). Other favourite is training is developed and delivered with technical focus, not end user focus. 

3. Using patronising language. Saying “Now, let us all … Let’s look at that again shall we?” Being expected to play silly, irrelevant games, icebreakers (because “we all need to take a break”)

4. Smells/odors – stinky ones. Loud keyboard clicking from distracted attendee. Not asking what I want – why does the presenter get to decide what we talk about? Don’t my opinions count?

5. Reading me the slides. I can read, dammit!

6. To many bullets though, that is under the category of too much text, usually due to the fact the presenter is using them as notes instead of presenting to me. Also, when someone shows a spreadsheet. I’m not reading that. And, charts or graphs that are not obvious to what is being measured. Not prepared presenters make me run out of the room.

7. Yes! I was at a presentation once where the presenter handed out toys to play with to “keep us occupied” while she talked. Obviously the material wasn’t worth my attention so I got up and left. Insulting on so many levels. I’ve got better things to do with my time thank you!

8. I hate, hate, hate it, when presenters read the slides to the audience AND we have the slides as handouts. It makes me think the presenter thinks we cannot read!

9. Frequently apologizes for typos, missing content, loosing place in class

10 This comment was just two words “Rubber Chicken”.  Someone will have to explain that to me.

So for all you presenters, experienced and newbies, headed off to ICE or any other session in the near future – keep these comments in mind.  I had fun with this, and hope you enjoy reading it – I will certainly have to conduct a more in-depth follow-up survey!

adviseTell us!

Any advice for presenters?  Did we leave anything out?  If you are going to be in an audience anytime soon – tell us what you think, how can presenters improve? 


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