Present to keep their presence

The look on the faces of the people around me validated my thoughts. Most were looking down on their mobile phones while some were battling hard to keep their eyelids open. The immaculately-dressed woman beside me had already dozed off five minutes back, all this while emitting a soft purr under her breath.


In front of the 20-odd crowd in this compact meeting room, a gentleman was going through slide number 45 of his 15 minute-long presentation. Now you know why most of us were already fiddling with our phones.

Besides being a Sunday, the other four presenters before him had also delivered elongated PowerPoint slides, likely having agreed amongst themselves beforehand to bore us to death. 

The email invitation for me to speak about Corporate Communication and Media Relations at today’s “informal business mentoring” session clearly did not say anything about formal presentations. I reread the email again; “Casual sharing session with entrepreneurs… advice on your area of expertise… benefit our chapter’s members…” It did not say anything about needing to impress anyone with your 150 clients and your 35 outlets around the country.

After about fifteen minutes of daydreaming when suddenly I heard my name being called out by the emcee. Slightly jolted, I walked to the front, turned around, uttered the usual salutations and was about to start speaking.

“Excuse me Chris, do you need to set up your laptop and PowerPoint slides?” asked the emcee sheepishly.  

I replied, “Thanks, but I don’t need one as I will be speaking to them directly in person. I thought this was supposed to be a sharing session rather than a sales presentation?” I sensed consciousness coming back to the room… although I’m quite sure I made some new enemies amongst the previous speakers.

After my 30-minute session, George, who is a fledgling entrepreneur dealing with development of mobile phone applications, came up and say “Hi”, while gently thrusting me a piece of A4-sized paper filled with handwritten notes made during my session.

“I made these notes based on your style of sharing with us earlier,” said George. The note read:

Examples of what to do if I’m asked to share my knowledge in future:

  • Don’t just focus on my company and products and services.
  • Don’t have to talk about history and how small your initial company size.
  • Don’t boast about what my company can do and what we have done.
  • Constantly ask people in attendance what they are looking / searching for.
  • Then, share my ideas and feedback on what could be the options available to them.
  • Share on my ideas and my experiences, and not merely utter list “what projects” I have done in the past.
  • Don’t just speak; ask questions to encourage interaction.
  • Don’t think formality. Think of being “in touch” with the people present.
  • Good tip! Get other people to help another person in the room. Don’t just answer their questions; ask also for other opinions when a question arises. This show respects and sharing.

George left with a picture taken of us together and hopefully some handy tips to be a worthy presenter in his own right; not necessary a better one, but at least one that does not put everyone to sleep.


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