When harsh criticism can be the best thing ever!

Boring conference

I was recently at a large, high profile business conference and unfortunately the first segment of it was dominated and ruined by shockingly poor presentations.

I couldn’t believe how these senior business individuals broke nearly every presentation rule – they used boring powerpoint slides with way too much text laid out in bullet point after bullet point.

What’s worse is they insisted on reading each long sentence, word for word letting these shockingly awful slides hijack the knowledge they undoubtedly possess and in the process making them look very foolish in front of a large audience.

The slides should help guide you not hijack you!

To make matters even worse one of the guys drove on, slide after slide, ignoring the ‘warning‘ bell and selfishly ate into the next presenters time – as a result the whole schedule was forced back, which meant many people had to leave that day before everyone had finished.

Despite this when they finished their presentations they each received a polite round of applause leaving them quite oblivious to the fact that they were truly awful.

At the coffee break the predictable chit chat started ..”weren’t those presentations shocking?” ..”the worst I have seen” …”that’s a real pity because he’s a good guy and his presentation let him down” …”surely someone will say something to him

Just as we were chatting one of the ‘car crash‘ presenters passed by and one of our guys who knew him said “well done” ..”oh ..thanks a lot

Why do we do that?

I have no doubt that these guys would have left the conference feeling satisfied that they had stood up, done their presentations and based on the feedback they did quite well. Next time they are asked to present they will probably do exactly the same again ..it worked last time, didn’t it?

Thankfully the day improved and there were some really superb presentations later, which did a huge job for the profile and the credibility of these speakers – they grabbed the opportunity to shine!

killarney lakes

In 2000 Bridgestone Guide author John McKenna, caused a storm of controversy when he slated the fantastic and nationally treasured tourism gem Killarney. In a review this travel writer and food critic stated that “the best way to see Killarney in County Kerry is through the rearview mirror of a car. He added that discerning tourists will avoid the town as it was an Irish travesty surrounded by beautiful lakeland“.

This review sparked an outrage, which made Mr McKenna a hated figure in the town – how could he say such a thing about our beautiful and perfect place?

Despite despising those words and the cruel messenger the savvy locals started to process this truth – maybe our product has deteriorated, maybe our food offering is poor, maybe the town is dirty and shabby, maybe our service levels aren’t quite what they should be and maybe, just maybe this critic might be telling the truth.

Killarney dug in and got to work on their offering and 11 years later they proudly invited back the much maligned John McKenna as a guest speaker to ‘eat his words’ following the town winning the Irish Tidy Town award. He conceded that “the Kerry holiday hotspot has improved enormously and is the undisputed capital of Irish tourism“.

While hearing the truth might hurt deeply (lets face it we all hate being criticised) it could turn out to be the very best thing for you.

Whatever we do we should always look for the person who will tell us the truth instead of applauding and saying “well done”

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

At Fuzion we help our clients with their Presentation Skills and Speech Delivery from our offices in Dublin and Cork

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10 Responses to “When harsh criticism can be the best thing ever!”

  1. Bernard McNamee Says:

    Two quotes come to mind:
    “feedback is the breakfast of champions” – sales book I started reading
    “good feedback is a waste of time” – paraphrasing the purple cow author
    Both mean a lot to me as I work in continuous improvement of my online business. If I get a negative comment, I don’t take it personally anymore – I think instead this is help to improve. Cheesy, maybe, but you know its true.

  2. Gerry Sinnott Says:

    Been their two weeks ago where the last speaker over ran his time, it was late in the evening and all people wanted to do was get home or go the bar and have a quiet pint.He had lost the audience after the first ten minutes and when the applause came it was loud but it was not for his presentation but it was that he had finally shut up.
    Maybe I should be brave enough to tell him.
    But I do know that if I get the graveyard shift myself I will have learnt from his mistake.
    Finish ahead of schedule and catch their attention at the bar.

  3. gerrysinnott Says:

    About three weeks ago I was at an evening event and poor guy who got the graveyard shift had lost the audience after ten minutes.
    Everybody was tired and he kept waffling on.
    When he finally shut up to loud applause not for his presentation but for the fact that he had shut up,everybody moved to the bar or home.I met the guy at the bar but I did not have the heart to tell him
    that he had lost us.
    But I learnt something. Graveyard shift finish early and let them get to the bar or let them home early. They will not thank you for keeping them late.

  4. colm Healy Says:

    Hi Greg, another insightful post. I agree completely with Bernard above, but just to add that we only actually learn from our mistakes, but how can we improve if no one will tell us….
    It actually takes a bit of guts to tell someone where they have gone wrong and we need to be mature enough to ‘suck it up’ and appreciate the fact that someone actually cares enough to help us.

  5. Fergal Bell Says:

    Perhaps it depends on the context – it’d be hard to come out with constructive or negative feedback for people you don’t know. It sounds like the speaker could have done with doing a dry run in front of people who knew him and might have given him a few pointers.

    Seeing the same old PowerPoint presentations packed with information always makes my hear sink.

    By the way, have you tried Prezi, Greg?

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Thanks Fergal – I haven’t used it myself as I feel its not that portable and is ‘one purpose’ ..maybe I should spend more time with it?

      • Fergal Bell Says:

        I think it’s worthwhile for typical presentations. It’s very dynamic and there are several templates to choose from so it gives options to vary the style according to the message.

        I just have the free version and this allows you to create presentations online and then save portable versions that you can show without needing an Internet connection. If you do want to edit though you’ll need online access.

        Give it a try! 😉

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