How to say, “Your presentation sucked!” in a nice way!

How to say your presentation sucked in a nice way!I got a question from a reader this morning that I thought I would answer in the form of a blog post.

Ashley (Name changed for protection) works at a large hospital in Chicago, IL and was frustrated with the way a colleague presented an “Inservice training” to some of the hospital staff at a meeting.

Here is what Ashley said about what happened:

“Hi Sam….any advice for diplomatic suggestions to peers that could use help in creating clarity in their teaching to our staff…..delicate to be sure! Any thoughts appreciated…..(example: this person started an in service without clarifying the topic or any objectives….you could see the confusion on the faces of the staff and the what’s in it for me quizzical looks!)”

As you are probably thinking right now, this happens more than you can imagine possible. Either through ignorance, ill-preparedness or a lack of caring many presenters and teachers fail to make an impression with their audience. And what is worse, confuse the hell out of those that are needing that information to do their jobs well! I could go on about this but I realize that because you are reading this, you are in the choir!

So here you are after the presentation, frustrated that the expected outcome of the presentation was not achieved. The feeling that your team failed because of poor communication from one of your peers is not fun. You have decided that you are going to say something to the unsuspecting colleague. “Suzie your presentation sucked big time!” is not a good way to start the conversation. Because even if deep down, Suzie knows that she did a poor job of the presentation, she is bound to get defensive if you criticize her skills openly.

Start by asking her how she felt about the presentation she just gave.

By doing that first, you will know how to approach her about it. If Suzie gushes about how well her presentation was received you know you have to slap her into consciousness! I am just kidding, but you will know that you will have to carefully break the news to her and tell her the truth. But in all honesty, chances are good that Suzie will know that she sucked.

Let Suzie know what she did well.

When delivering bad news, it is sometimes better to warm up the person by delivering good news first. There is no such thing as a 100% failure, so find something that you can compliment about the training that she delivered. A good way to do that is to step back from the frustration you are feeling and look for the good in what was delivered. Maybe she thanked someone publicly, or told a good story or had prepared a good handout. Find something!

Make sure that you are not sounding like you are making up stuff to just butter her up. “The way you handed out the training material, I was impressed!” will probably not go over well.

Ask for permission to share some feedback.

You work with Suzie and you want to maintain a good working relationship. She might even be your happy hour buddy! So caution is important. Your goal for this encounter is to make sure that you maintain your relationship, you make feel like you are on her side and you help her overcome this obstacle. and you want to maintain a good working relationship. She might even be your happy hour buddy! So caution is important. Your goal for this encounter is to make sure that you maintain your relationship, you make Suzie feel like you are on her side and you help her overcome this obstacle.

So take a deep breath and say, “You did a lot of good in your presentation today, and you could do even better. Would you be comfortable with me sharing a couple of ideas that you can use for your next presentation? Suzie will probably say yes to that. Most people will.

Don’t give Suzie a list of 20 things to improve upon. 

You are passionate about presentations, and you know how to create, design and deliver great presentations. But remember that Suzie does not share your passion. Yet. If I were to ask you what was poorly handled by Suzie during her presentation, you might have a list of twenty things she did wrong. Giving her a list that long would completely deflate her ego and would affect your relationship.

So here is how you can go about this. Think of all the improvements Suzie could make to her presentation. Now think of two things she could do differently that will have the biggest impact at her next one. Share those two things with her and allow that to work. Once Suzie has shown improvements in those two areas, then go ahead and start sharing more!

Focus on facts.

Especially when you are talking about presentations, it is easy to get confused between opinion and facts. You strongly believe that a PowerPoint presentation should have very little animation. Suzie on the other hand, loves to stuff hers with lots of animations. Let it go for now. Keep your criticisms specific, whenever possible, and impersonal. Be especially careful around issues that involve personal taste, such as color schemes or fonts. Even if you know you’re right, may take your criticism as a personal attack.

Give Suzie some proof.

One of the best ways to give credibility to your thoughts and ideas that you are sharing with Suzie is to show her an article or a blog post that supports your point of view. That nullifies nasty feelings that Suzie may develop if she thinks it is personal. Once you have won Suzie on your side, a good inexpensive gift of a “How to” book might be in order as well!

Provide support.

If you have gone this far and things are going well, Suzie might be open to the idea of you helping her with rehearsing the presentation before the next Inservice training. Offer that help and see if it is welcome.

I hope this helps you to bring this sensitive topic up with your “Suzie”! Please let me know below in the comments, how you handle these type of situations.

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