Talking, but nothing to say.

When I was college, they actually terminated the professor who was teaching one of my classes in the middle of the semester. The dean walked into the classroom one morning and dryly stated, “There is nothing worse than to be locked in a room with someone who is talking, but has nothing to tell you. I’ll be teaching this class for the rest of the semester.” And, the dean was correct; this guy had been awful and had nothing relevant to impart to us. On the other hand, this dean still knew how to teach and the class took on a whole new vibrancy.

That incident stuck with me. Like most of us in the sales and marketing arena, I’ve given a lot of presentations over the years. Each time, I’ve always hoped that I had something worthwhile to say. The burden is on us as presenters to have something to tell you, and we need to make it interesting and relevant to your business. If we don’t, we have wasted not only our time, but the time of everyone in that room, both directly and indirectly. That is, when you’re in class, you’re not out drilling or installing or servicing.

As presenters, we should have a single goal: at the end of the presentation or seminar, you walk out of the room thinking, “That was time well spent. I know more now than when I walked into the room.” As a water systems contractor, you should always hold us to that standard.

There are a couple of ways to make sure that happens. To begin with, ask questions. Hard questions. Any presenter worth his or her salt wants those. Questions make the whole event much more interesting and challenging for us. And, this is your opportunity to find something out that maybe you’ve been wondering about for a long time. Even questions that we can’t answer at the moment are good. In a lot of cases, someone else in the audience may already have the answer.

This should be seemingly obvious, but too often, it doesn’t feel like it. Presentations and seminars are for you, not the company doing the presenting. It should feel like a conversation that you are part of, no matter how many people are in the room. No one should ever read a stack of PowerPoint slides. If they do, why are we all in this room? Just pass out copies of the presentation and you can go off and read those at your leisure.

Finally, we truly want your feedback and you should never hold that back, especially when it’s bad. At Franklin Electric, we pass out evaluations at the end of the session. Every comment you make gets read by multiple parties and it’s taken to heart. If the presentation is part of a state association meeting, and you have feedback, don’t just let it go; tell someone with the association. That’s how we make them better.

Presentations, seminars, training … Whatever you call them, they’re for you. Never let yourself get locked in a room with someone who is talking, but has nothing to tell you.

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