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How To Deliver a Terrible Presentation

Want to deliver a terrible presentation? This article offers eight techniques to do just that.

Forget who your audience is. The first step to delivering a terrible presentation is to forget who the presentation is for and avoid meeting your audience at their intellectual and emotional level. Imagine attending a hip-hop concert where the band performs Mozart selections. You would likely be disappointed and unable to relate to the music being played. You might even say the concert was terrible.

Similarly, a presentation that is not aimed at the audience it serves will succeed in disappointing. Use acronyms to confuse those who do not know them. Speak in college level words that are meaningless to your high school level participants. Finally, use clip art to appeal to adults. 

Skip the script. Don’t worry about what you will say. Just wing it. There is no need to identify your three key points or follow a sequence of points. Your delivery will be spontaneous. It may ramble, but so what?

Practice is for fools. Closely aligned with skipping the script is avoiding the practice. Why worry about what you will say when the bullet points are already on the PowerPoint? All you need to do is look at the screen and read the bullet points on each slide.

Kill humor. Begin your presentation by announcing you will tell a joke. This advance warning will stifle the surprise that generates laughter. Better yet, tell what is clearly a joke and claim it is true and happened to you. Finally, when your attendees do laugh—most of them laugh to relieve the tension they feel—stare them down. If that doesn’t work, belittle one of your attendees.

Lecture. Lecture practically guarantees a terrible presentation. Never set up activities where attendees have to discover information for themselves. Tell them and be done with it. This will give you more time to share your wisdom.


Read your presentation. Lecture takes you a long way towards a terrible presentation. To travel the rest of the distance, stare at your script or bullet points and read your lecture to your audience. Avoid eye contact at all costs. It builds unnecessary connections between you and the attendees.

Focus on later. Do not get into the moment with your attendees. It’s too emotional. Focus on all possible distractions instead. Big issues in your life? Dinner with friends? Just want to collect your paycheck? Say what you are required to say and get out of there. 

Cram it in. You are the subject matter expert. You only have these attendees for a few hours. You want to share every morsel of information you possess. Tell them, then tell them more, and then tell them even more. Give them every possible ramification of each factoid. To be really terrible, spend much of the presentation sharing how things used to be done instead of what the attendees should do now. Finally, give them a longwinded version of your history and accomplishments.

Stop and keep talking. At the end of your presentation, open the floor for questions. Then, keep talking. When a question is asked, do your best to make your response nonresponsive. Talk as long as possible. In that way, you can prevent additional questions. And finally, when you say you have concluded, pause for a moment, and then keep talking.

Follow the steps above and you will deliver a truly terrible presentation. It will be one your attendees will never forget—unfortunately for them.

© 2017 ATD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Lenn Millbower is a Disney speaker, presentation skills trainer, and author. He received his bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and his master’s from Webster University. Millbower was honored by the Walt Disney Company with the prestigious Partner’s In Excellence lifetime achievement award. This internal employee award was granted in recognition of his training and leadership accomplishments as a member of the opening training team for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He is a national board member of the International Alliance for Learning and the Contract Trainer’s Association, and a member of the National Speaker’s Association and ASTD.
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Fun way to read some important reminders! Thank you.
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ATD Houston Tech Conference. See me tomorrow to win free Presentation Skills training consistent with How NOT to do it!
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Hilarious! Thanks for the reminder that "wrong examples" are powerful in learning.
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