“Keep up, sit up and shut up.” The Poor Presenter’s Prayer?

I have to credit my wife with this one.  She has been giving me excellent forthright feedback for nearly 40 years, and this morning over breakfast was no exception.  She was explaining something to me, and to be honest I was not giving her my wholly undivided attention.  Most unlike me.

“Keep up, sit up and shut up!”
“Thank you my darling”

I asked her a question which revealed how little I had been listening, and so she gave me some feedback, effortlessly using the well known BEST model (Behaviour, Effect, Suggestion, Transformation).  The best bit was the wonderful Suggestion part:

“You need to keep up, sit up and shut up.”

Yes indeed, point taken, mea culpa.  Sorry for not listening, and interrupting.  Bad habits borne of years of having too much energy and the attention span of a gnat.

I found the phrase reverberating around my brain, as it has a certain ring to it and scans well.  Having thought about it further, it strikes me that this catchy phrase may be one which subconsciously many a BAD presenter has in their mind as they kick off their presentation:  it’s the Poor Presenter’s Prayer, if you like.  Let’s examine the three components one at a time.


The poor presenter has way too much content and not enough time, and rather than reduce the scope of the presentation decides the best answer is to go through it more quickly.  They pray that the audience will be able to keep up and not get lost or confused.  To help the audience they sometimes resort to putting all the content onto the slide so they can read it as well as listen to it.  This of course results in the brain having to cope with both audio and visual inputs, and as a result it gets jammed.  Bad mistake.


The poor presenter hopes that their content will be inherently exciting and motivating to their audience, who will show their appreciation by putting away all distractions, sitting up straight, not reading their emails, pinning back their lugholes and opening wide for this stream of fascinating information.  If only.  You can’t tell an audience to be interested, you have to earn that.  If they are being naughty and not paying attention, that will be your fault.  You get the audience you deserve.


Poor presenters will tell you at the start to shut up.  They do so discreetly by having an Agenda slide on which the last bullet will say “Questions”.  How nice of them to allow time for questions.  Your time will come, but not until the end (and if they’re particularly uneasy they will deliberately run late so there is no time for them.)  This means they do not want any interaction during the presentation.  This is because they fear that if there is, they will lose control.

The trouble with that is they therefore lose the chance to gauge what their audience feels about what they are saying.  It becomes a one way transmission, and there is no way of knowing whether it is being received the other end.  It also means the person who asks a question because they don’t understand something has to basically give up.  How stupid is that?

So there you have it.  Three very good ways of messing up your presentation, neatly encapsulated in my wife’s excellent motto.  My advice is to do the opposite when you’re presenting.

But make sure you apply it by the letter whilst seated at the breakfast table.

As a bonus item this week, here’s a video of me demonstrating The Poor Presenter’s Prayer.  And making one or two additional errors along the way.  See how many gaffes you can spot, and if you want my list of the errors let me know.



Photo Source:  footage.framepool.com

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at www.hownot2.com
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5 Responses to “Keep up, sit up and shut up.” The Poor Presenter’s Prayer?

  1. Will says:

    Great stuff …and timely. I am presenting to a large group of GPs shortly on appraisal. Potentially almost as interesting as the internal mail system. I have made adjustments! Will


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