Haiku Maven: Boring Presenters
Dear Haiku Maven, I do not understand why some good haiku poets often make bad presentations at haiku conferences. By bad, I mean looking down and reading from a prepared text or paper in a monotone, and looking up only when done. I hear people in the audience complain among themselves about the presenters when this happens, but not to anyone in charge. What is a polite way to let a presenter know that the presentation was boring? Should the conference organizer be told? Somewhat Bored
Haiku Maven has had the experience of listening to and learning from the best presenters, those who, having written an excellent paper, know how to engage an audience. But not all presenters excel at connecting with an audience. Most haiku conference presenters put a lot of time and effort into the presentation. And almost all of the presenters have to pay their own way as well as registration fees, although in some cases certain costs are reimbursed. Presenters who are reading prepared texts are often in the dark about whether the audience is engaged or not. After all, it is hard to notice audience reaction when one’s eyes are glued to a paper. How to solve this problem? Haiku Maven thinks that a comment sheet given to audience members would be one way. Or conference organizers could put together a few well chosen words on this subject and include them in the request for proposals. One thing Haiku Maven does not recommend is complaining to the conference organizers, especially during the conference. They are under a lot of stress making sure that the conference is running smoothly. At times like these, a word of praise is more welcome than another complaint. You may even be rewarded with a hug.
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This Post Has 7 Comments
Learn your subject, create your own guidelines, adhere
to them and don’t get cute. Giving leads at AA meetings
is helpfully too.
“What is a polite way to let a presenter know that the presentation was boring?”
Have the organisers provide basic assessment/ comments sheets with suitable questions placed on seats beforehand and collected later. Feedback can then be given to the presenters at a later date.
The facts are that not all writers have learnt performance skills, and not all material is equally amenable to performance. Trivial content can be performed well and excellent content can seem boring because it’s more suitable for reading and reflection than to be read aloud. A tall bloke (or a sexy-looking woman) with a confident, sometimes jokey manner and performance skills will have more immediate initial impact, no matter how thin the material.
Also, people in audiences vary in their ability to take in information. Some people mainly want to be entertained and have short attention spans, some are more reflective and have trained themselves to listen. It’s not a one-way street.
It may be bit of a stereotype, but it is one that fits me, the shy poet! I won’t ever be appearing on stage, like most haiku poets it fills me with self conscious dread. Most people are not good public speakers, across all spheres, from academics to professional training from local community talks to the vicars sermon we are disappointed in the experience. Reading out a script that is simultaneously shown on a Powerpoint is not engaging but is very common. The best presenters are confident and can talk, apparently ‘off the cuff’ directly to their audience, for the right amount of time and at the right level. They engage you with their enthusiasm and impress you with their knowledge. This is partly personality and partly a skill set that can be learned.
In small special interest communities one has to accept that people whose work your admire and love reading, may not (probably won’t be) the best presenters. However they are valuable, they are friends and it is rather cruel to be critical. It is down to organisers to meet with them and discuss the best way to present their work – the optimum set up/ seating/timing/engagement/expectations – not easy when they may live on the opposite side of the country.. Often standing on a podium with a microphone when in reality there is a small group of listeners you can sit in a circle with is unnecessarily formal and ineffective.
Confidence is the key. However, even those who routinely teach (at whatever level) do not necessarily make good presenters, always a surprise for me. Sometimes it’s because they know their topic *too* well (but there are also those presenters who do something too lightweight). Sometimes people speak too quickly … or with too many pauses! Sometimes the presentation isn’t pitched at the right level for the audience.
Yes, presenters do put in a lot of time and effort so it’s always a shame when they have to rush the final part or skip chunks because they run out of time.
It’s hard for organisers to judge from a written precis what the final paper may be like and, of course, they may not know many of the speakers to know what their podium ability may be like.
The best speakers seem to be the most relaxed at the lectern – a conversational style, a joke or two. It sounds easier than it is. (And it helps if you’re tall.)
When I lived in Japan, I often felt the reading of presentations and haiku often sound as an ancient monotone. Since I started going to conferences and meetings in the U.S., I often heard an artificial drone, different but somehow the same affect. Personally, I prefer presentations and haiku readings with clarity and even passion. Is that too much to ask?
Welcome back, Haiku Maiven. I hope you enjoyed your time “off”. Public speaking is a different skill set than deep intellectual thinking about haiku. And I’ve always believed that there’s a bit of a confidence issue when speakers do not engage the audience. It may help for organizers to offer some tips and even some assistance for putting together an engaging presentaiton — and certainly, friendly efforts to let the speaker know you;re interested in what s/he is saying can also be helpful. I personally find that it’s useful to know that I have a friendly ear in my audience.
After reading this, I don’t think I’ll be behind the podium anytime soon! (Even if I have something to add to the mix.)
Michele L. Harvey
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