Last week I had the misfortune of attending a “lecture” on the Eichmann Trial, in Palm Desert.
I don’t remember who put it on and I’m not going to mention the speakers by name because I don’t want to embarrass them. At least two were sweet older gentlemen and a third was an academic from Loyola Marymount (who seriously needs speaker training).
I will say, however, that I walked out of the lecture mid-way, after the third speaker. Can’t remember ever doing that.
Now why would I do that? Because the speakers weren’t speaking, they were ranting. And even worse, they were ranting to the wrong audience. The audience of probably 100+ attendees was made up of 50 – 80 year old Jews. This is an audience who already knows the damage of the Holocaust and the evilness of those who perpetrated it. Some of them were probably survivors and lots of them have family who didn’t survive.
Meet your audience’s needs — not your own. I’ve said this a million times before. If you make this mistake, you can’t recover.
This was supposed to be a lecture and discussion about the Eichmann Trial itself.
Instead what we got was as follows (at least until I walked out):
They started the program without telling us what was going to occur and instead just played video clips from you tube. OK, I’ll play along for a minute or two, but unfortunately they didn’t bother to download any videos to their computer, nor did they bother to download the links directly to their desktop.
So we got to watch them go into their email for video clip link after video clip link. Yep, we got to see their email list, and each email that they went into to get the clip. Oh, and there was the nifty “so and so is now online” Skype pop up that entertained us every few minutes as well.
Unfortunately they tortured us with this silliness for about 15 minutes, the last 8 – 10 of which was just streaming download pauses and 10 seconds of video then another streaming download pause.
The only thing more irritating than sitting at a speech/lecture and watching a video try to download is watching Oscar speeches.
Bad enough…. but then…
Speaker #1/MC: basically just told a story of his father’s escape from Germany. I’m guessing more than half the audience had heard similar stories from their own parents while growing up. What was the point?
Speaker #2: basically paced back and forth telling us how evil Eichmann was and how Hannah Arendt’s “the Banality of Evil” was completely baseless. OK… tell this audience something they don’t know already. And stop pacing, it’s distracting.
Speaker #3: this lovely older gentleman was the worst, simply because all he did was rant about what a horrible person FDR was and how he was totally complicit in the Holocaust. Still not sure what he was trying to do either.
I walked out after Speaker #3.
What are the lessons?
- Organize your conferences even if you are an all-volunteer force. Your audience should be treated with respect and that means respecting our time. Even retired people get annoyed when their time is wasted.
- Prepare your audio and video in advance. Either:
- download the video onto your hard drive (preferable), or
- put the direct link to the video on your desktop so we don’t have to see all of your emails and wait for you to find the right link
- When preparing your audio and video clips in advance, you also need to
- Make sure the facility has adequate streaming capability, or go wired, and still make sure there is adequate streaming capability.
- If there isn’t, you have to download to your hard drive or find another source.
- Make sure you remember to kill all programs on your computer and turn off all alerts, so we don’t sit there watching your email, Skype and IM alerts.
- Prepare an actual presentation, with an outline and all, or at least a few talking points.’
- Don’t rant. We don’t care about your rants. Rants turn an audience off and make them uncomfortable.
- Don’t rant. Speak to us, be thoughtful, organized, easy to follow. Have a point. Have three main points if you want people to follow you.
- Don’t rant. What is the point of your presentation? Decide in advance and create one – don’t wing it or you may end up ranting.
Moral of the Story: Passion is good. Ranting is bad.