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Audience Disappointment in the Digital Age: A Cautionary Tale

The other day I heard my phone ring as I was coming in the door.  I ran to the phone and looked at the caller ID and saw that it was a Boston area code, but not a number that I recognized.  I was instantly excited.  I was sure it was a new client calling to book a workshop.  Yes!  I picked up on the third ring, trying to sound cool and casual, and I heard a stranger say, “Hi Barbara, this is Jennifer from Marketing Solutions calling to tell you about our new email marketing webinar.”  My heart sank. My whole body sank.  The disappointment was palpable.  What she heard me say was, “Oh, hello,” but what I was thinking was, “You’ve just ruined my day.”

Now imagine your audience experiencing that level of disappointment because you were unprepared.  It’s like going to Denny’s, seeing the beautiful picture of the Grand Slam breakfast, ordering it with great anticipation, and then realizing that the actual meal you were just served looks nothing like the picture.  Letdown.

In the old days, when a presenter disappointed his or her audience, it showed up on the evaluation form.  Maybe you were not asked back to that conference, but in the grand scheme of things your reputation was still intact. That was so last century.  Now enter the age of texting and tweeting in which presenters are experiencing a whole new level of feedback.

Consider the recent example of an interview conducted with Marc Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook.   The interviewer – who will remain nameless, as will the conference in which this occurred – was not only unprepared, but she jumped into the deep end of the pool despite that fact that she was not a very strong swimmer. The interview was not going well.  People in the audience were beyond disappointed: they were angry.  So they tweeted their anger and told the world what a bad job she was doing.  As a result, this interviewer’s reputation is damaged for good.

Do you have a big presentation coming up?  Do you care about your reputation?  Then plan ahead and book your preparation time appropriately.  I tell my clients to book one hour for every 15 minutes of speaking time.   Book it now.

– Barbara Roche

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