When you are presenting with another person, coordination is key. Otherwise the other guy might get the spotlight while you get the hook.
A presenter gets the shaft
Here’s the sad story of a friend of mine whose well-prepared speech was overwhelmed by her co-presenter’s lack of preparation:
So that presentation I’ve been all worked up over? Well, they screwed up the schedule so the breakout went from 90 minutes to 60 minutes. My co-presenter used up all but about 10 minutes! She walked in at 1:00, which was her start time, then spent 10 minutes trying to get her presentation up. She had incorrect info on at least two of her slides. I felt that she came across totally unprepared and winging it.
Meanwhile, I was so ready and basically was put up as an afterthought. I had to rush through and really felt that I didn’t get everything I wanted to say out. She even cut me off mid thought because “time was up.” A few people asked for my cards, which was good! I didn’t have them with me, which was not. FAIL.
I was bummed about it all the way home. My one moment to shine and my light got doused.
Well, that sure stinks! But what could have happened differently to improve the outcome?
The co-presenter made a big mistake by arriving right at the start of the session. By spending 10 minutes to get her presentation up, she wasted everybody’s time: her own, my friend’s, and the audience’s. That’s very unprofessional and disrespectful. But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. What if there were some unavoidable circumstance that prevented her from arriving early? Read on…
Coordinate before the presentation
Since the two women were presenting together, it might have been a good idea for them to share their presentations. That way, they could’ve reviewed each others’ decks and the mistakes might have been caught before they were shown to the audience. The two presenters could’ve made sure that they weren’t repeating what the other was saying and could have played off of each other more effectively. And if both presenters had both decks with them, then the one who arrived first could’ve gotten both presentations up and running so that the latecomer could start right in.
Stick to your allotted time
If you’re presenting with another person, chances are that each of you gets an equal amount of time. It’s only fair, right? They could’ve practiced their presentations to ensure that each came in at slightly under the halfway mark. That way, there’s time for Q&A at the end. The first presenter in this case was inconsiderate of my friend by taking up most of the allotted time.
Unfortunately, in this case the session was reduced by a half hour. So each person’s 45-minute time slot was slashed to 30 minutes, not including time for Q&A. Which brings me to my next bit of advice…
Get to the point
You need to know what your key points are that you want to communicate. That way, if your session gets cut as this one did you’re still able to talk about the important things. The audience will most likely be sympathetic if you explain that your session time was reduced unexpectedly, but they will still want to hear something of value from you. When this happens, having a great handout is vital in case you’re unable to address everything you wanted to. Which leads to my final suggestion…
Give people a way to get in touch with you
Always, always, always carry business cards with you. End with a closing slide that shows your contact information. Include the same contact information in your handouts. If possible, have a sign-in sheet where people put their email addresses so you can get in touch with audience members after the presentation.
You can’t fix stupid
As the comedian Ron White says, you can’t fix stupid. That means that no matter how much you prepare there could always be somebody out there ready to bollix it all up for you. Much of what happened to my friend was out of her control and was entirely the fault of her co-presenter. But even in the face of rude people, changing schedules, and technical difficulties, a seasoned professional keeps her cool.
Besides, every presenter has some story like this, right?
Have you ever experienced a similar situation? Things not go your way due to circumstances beyond your control? Describe it in the Comments section!