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logo_i-want-to-walkTo be honest, I am not sure what I experienced is a presentation cardinal sin, but it should be. I am not talking about “Death by Powerpoint” which I think we all agree is just plain sacrilege. I am talking about presenters who point out those who vote with their feet. I expect it at a comedy club from a slowly dying comic, but not a professional whose ideas are not resonating with me.

To clarify, voting with one’s feet is simply leaving a presentation because you do not enjoy the presentation, do not find the information compelling or just plain do not like the presenter. Whatever the reason, as adults who have little precious time, we have the right to get up and leave a presentation that is not for us or “vote with our feet.

As an occasional presenter, I want my audience to enjoy themselves, learn something new, feel a part of the experience and, above all, want to be there. If not, I also want them to feel comfortable walking out and finding something that is right for them. Generally, my audience stay and appears to enjoy themselves, but there has certainly been times when a participant has walked out. I do not feel hurt, irritated or annoyed and I certainly have never called them out for it, unlike what I experienced the other week at a conference.

I attended a session at an educational conference that in the catalogue sounded like it was right up my alley. I went with the full intention of remaining and learning. However, it was quickly clear that I had made a mistake and misunderstood the session description (or the description inaccurate). Yet, I decided to give it some time as I did not want to miss out on an opportunity to learn something new. The patience I mustered turned out to be futile and myself and a colleague who shared the same sense of error decided it was time to go to another session. So, we respectfully waited for an appropriate break in the presentation cadence, got up and prepared to vote with our feet. However, the presenter surprisingly had something to say about it.

As my colleague and I crossed what seemed like an endless conference room for the exit, the presenter looked at us and loudly proclaimed, “but you will miss the cooperative play!” Now at this point feeling violated by this horrific display of tact, I began to walk just a little faster and focused my gaze on the floor just a little stronger. However, my brazen partner in crime took another approach and responded “that is why we are leaving.” We then both exited the room, took a breath of recycled hotel air and realized we had just been victims of a presenter crime; a crime we both vowed never to repeat when we present.

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