Presentations and Conversations; Why Easier Is Not Better

So here’s the thing about blogging and writing stuff, or rather, writing stuff in general; no matter what you do and no matter what you THINK you’re doing, you are, in every sense of the word PRESENTING something. Now, yes, MY presentations are usually chock full of references to absolutely anything and everything I can get my hands on, but an interesting point to explore is the fact that no matter what, I have a main point that is USUALLY easy to clue in on, and that main point is prevalent throughout everything I do, even if I go on random tangents. That HOWEVER is no longer becoming the case with the art of presentation.

You see, it isn’t really that difficult to present something; usually, you have something to say and something worth saying something about it. It’s simple, if I have a cookie and I want to present that cookie, all I have to do is talk about the cookie, which is what you’d expect. Sadly however, this is no longer becoming the case, and presentations are now becoming muddled up with conversation. That is to say, I am no longer informing YOU about the cookie so much as WE are talking about the cookie. Can you tell the difference? I’m sure you can, and I’m sure that you are also starting to notice the trend. Long story short? People can’t present.

Well, NO they still CAN present, it’s just that they mess it up and somehow end up having a conversation with the audience they’re supposed to be presenting to. More importantly, however, they don’t argue and they certainly don’t debate their point (like you’d expect them to do), they simply give you information and expect you to do something with it. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are people out there who can present EXTREMELY well, but these are the people who are expected to; Steve Jobs and Walter Lewin need to be able to speak or write about their plans in a way that people can understand, which is why they’re presentations may SEEM like conversations, even though the information is being delivered in an efficient and thorough way. The people who are EXPECTED to present are trained over and over again by experts to get their tone right, to get their language (both physical and verbal) just right, to get everything down to the way they dress as close to absolute perfection as is humanely possible. Or who knows, maybe each and every single world leader, CEO and professor is just innately born with a talent to speak fluidly and dynamically. Sounds kinda crazy when you hear it, doesn’t it?

Practice is the one thing that separates presentation and conversation, yes, this I can agree on. Presentations require preparation, they require time, effort and memorization, and if they don’t? Well, they sound like a poorly made and under prepared high school report on fluid dynamics or electromagnetic medical technologies, and THAT is the one thing that we ALL want to avoid. When we present we want to sound like we could be invited to speak at TED, and not The View (and in case you’re asking, YES. I DID just insult the view to get people to comment and criticize. See what I did there?), so when we begin presentations that end up like conversations the question is no longer “What went wrong?” so much as “Why wasn’t enough effort put in?” because let’s face it. Presentations are DEFINITELY not easy; there are SO many factors to overcome that listing them all is not in my current interest. HOWEVER, presentations are not so ASTRONOMICALLY difficult that there isn’t a single idea or individual that cannot be presented by anyone. Presentations showcase ideas and thoughts to peers through words and pictures (whether moving or otherwise). It’s really simple when you break it down.

So what’s the reason for poorly prepared presentations? Frankly, I think it’s really easy to explain and I’m sure I’ve already talked about this; people prefer to take the easy way out of things. People prefer the conversation method because it’s FAR easier to speak WITH someone (usually, I’m working on it people, relax) rather than TO or AT someone because then there’s a divisive line that’s formed and people do NOT like divisions between themselves and others (and don’t even get me started on the whole “people fight and argue” concept, we all know that if we all AGREED on something and divisions didn’t exist, we’d all get along just fine, which is why we don’t LIKE the divisions, exceptions apply JUST LIKE ALWAYS. MOVING ON!), so they take the easy way out and things don’t end up sounding as good as they could and they don’t sound nearly as CONVINCING as they should .

People (and I’m including myself this time too) like to take the easy way out of things because THAT way we can accomplish tasks with LESS work, and that’s what’s been ingrained in our minds since antiquity; less work is better. If you can solve a 5 step problem in 3 steps, why bother with the added 2 steps? If you can code a bug out of an algorithm in 3 strokes instead of 7, why bother with the extra 4? Though, we ALL know the answer to that question. Taking the easy way out is not ALWAYS the best solution, even though it might be cheaper, or more whatever. Unless you know for a fact that using 1 step instead of 3 will get you the same result (if not better), you SHOULD go through those 2 extra steps. Allow me to provide an example. I’m writing this article (or post, whatever you’re cool with) on OpenOffice.org 3 instead of Microsoft Word because I know that all I need to do is type this up and then spell check it before I copy it over into wordpress’s dashboard utility to post it. Notice that I’m using OpenOffice.org instead of Microsoft Word. Word is DEFINITELY the better product. It’s more sleek, it runs just that bit smoother and it makes the document look professional and well done.

So why am I using an inferior product (I’m so sorry Oracle, I love OpenOffice.org but let’s face it, it is DEFINITELY no Microsoft Office, and I’m sure A LOT of your customers both understand AND respect that, moving on however)? The reason is that it’s EASIER for me. On my computer, it’s faster to open up OpenOffice.org’s word processor than it is to open up Microsoft Word. More importantly, I don’t NEED word right now. I don’t need to change any of the formatting for this article, I don’t need to add a title page or spruce up the document with a certain theme, in essence, I don’t need to hand in this article for evaluation from a boss or professor, or so on and so forth and therefore I’ve decided to use this inferior (though still WORTHY) product. I’m accomplishing a task in 1 step instead of 2 because I know that this doesn’t NEED to undergo that extra step and THAT is what people need to remember about this universe. Things are easier for a reason and it’s usually because you’ve somehow managed to complicate something. Operating systems are more complex now than ever before and yet they’re easier to use than ever before. The machine I’m using right now trumps almost ALL of what existed decades ago and it is GARBAGE compared to even the WORST machines available on the market, though I digress once again.

The point is this: people are getting worse and worse at presentations because they’re not willing to put in the extra effort to get a truly GREAT presentation, but it isn’t JUST the presenters. Almost every single individual on this planet is gravitating towards the easier method that can provide a solution even though they ignore the principle that something cannot be made from nothing and that in order to gain, something of equal value must be lost, even if it SEEMS like something of LESSER value is being lost. Remember the most obvious principle of the world people: the law of conservation of mass (and please don’t go around using this principle to figure out human relationships because I can guarantee you that it won’t work out EXACTLY how you’d like it to), because easier does NOT mean better and it most certainly does not GUARANTEE equal results. To think, all of this because I was complaining about my VERY poor presentation style!

As always, this has been your Admin; comment and criticize and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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