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The boredom buzzer

Ever heard of theatresports? It’s a form of improvisational theatre in which two teams of actors compete against each other. Audiences rate their performance.

An important role in theatresports is given to a panel of judges. Their most important duty: they must prevent boredom. As soon as a group of actors performs in a way that’s uninspired or outright boring, the judges will blow a horn or push a buzzer and the attempt is over.

One reason for why presentations are so boring so often is that we – the audience – tolerate boring presentations. (The same is true for quite a few conference organizers, by the way.)

How about a little thought experiment for your next meeting or presentation? If it’s boring, just imagine that someone is in possession of a boredom buzzer and has the right to use it.

Even better: Would you dare to actually bring a boredom buzzer?

It may sound harsh at first sight. But if everyone agrees, it’s not. It’s based on the assumption that everyone values everyone else’s time.

Anyone who is determined to present things that matter in a way that matters to their audience doesn’t need to be afraid of the buzzer in any way. Either she is so good that the buzzer won’t be used or – if it is – she will learn from it and can improve the next time.

It’s only those who quickly pull together a few slides in the last five minutes before a meeting who would be afraid of the boredom buzzer and rightly so. Likewise those who just read out loud their slides. Or those who just dump data without interpreting it. Or those who waste 30 minutes to say what can be said in 5 minutes.

Better presentations are possible from both sides: the presenters can decide to do better. But the listeners can also decide to demand better.

Best to do both.

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