How to Give a Horrible Presentation

The Public Speaker reviews her top public speaking tips by looking at what it takes to give a horrible presentation. Read what NOT to do. 

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #214

You've heard of Opposite Day, right? It's an unofficial holiday when statements mean the opposite of their usually meaning.  (You may remember the Seinfeld episode in which the character George Costanza says the opposite of everything about himself to get a girl.) 

Well, I declare this episode to be Opposite Episode!

Today, I'm going to review the best ways to make your presentation as horrible as possible.

  • Preparation is for beginners, right? You’re a pro, so why waste your time? Just go ahead and deliver the same presentation you used last time. Don't bother to research the demographics, psychographics, ethnographics, and politics of this particular audience.  Don't change your analogies, your stories, or your examples to resonate with your audience. If your presentation was good enough for the Cosmetology Convention in Los Angeles last week, it must be good enough for the Scientific Research Convention in Nepal next week.

  • Send your full resume (CV) to the organizer just a few minutes before the presentation. Since they won’t have time to review it,  they’ll have to read the entire document to your audience as your introduction. Summarizing or highlighting would mean the audience might not hear about that award you won for keeping your desk clean in 5th grade. 

  • Don’t ask how to pronounce the names of the conference organizers before you mention them in your intro. It’s more fun to make up your own pronunciations and then watch the looks on their faces as you destroy their names in front of an audience.

Everything you need is crammed onto your slides, so just wing it! 

  • Wait to work on your slides and handouts till the night before your speech so you don’t have time to practice. Everything you need is crammed onto your slides, so just wing it! 

Speaking of slides, it’s easy to create them for your horrible presentation. Here are some tips for creating a completely useless slide deck:

  • Cram your slides with data.  Put everything you want to say on the slides, plus more so it looks like you’ve done a lot of work. If you run out of room, just use a smaller font. 

  • Think of graphics as filler. Just use what you’ve already created for prior projects. Don't bother to modify them for use on a slide presentation.  Clip art is always impressive. You can also fill space with 3D pie charts and graphs. Accuracy and readability aren’t important. Oh, and don't forget to say, "I know the text is too small…" and "I know this slide breaks all the rules but…" several times while making your presentation.  

  • Don’t put titles on your slides. You’re going to be making your point verbally anyway, so why bother putting it on the slides?

  • Don’t review your slides for consistency. Who cares if you use different fonts on every screen? It’s fine to use numbers, bullets, and lettering without any rhyme or reason. Your audience is smart; they’ll be able to figure it out and follow along. 

I’ve saved the most fun part for last. Since you didn’t prepare at all, and your slides are impossible to follow, delivering your horrible presentation will be easy with these final steps:


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.