After a recent Marketing Profs virtual event with content of varied quality (the Radian 6 presentation was surprisingly weak), I tweeted the question: Do you prefer to feel smarter than or not as smart as the speaker in a presentation?

The people responding said they preferred to NOT feel as smart as the presenter. There are certainly good reasons for that, since when a presenter is clearly smarter than you on the topic being discussed, it’s more likely you’ll be:

  • Learning new things
  • Stimulated mentally by the session
  • Able to see where you have learning gaps to work on
  • Aware of at least one new person to reach out to in shoring up expertise you don’t have

There can also be some downsides to attending a presentation where the speaker is markedly smarter than the audience. It may be more difficult for the speaker to genuinely connect with the audience because of difficulties in simplifying the message for those still learning. There can also be a self-defeating sense you should be smarter or stronger than you are on a topic. In that case, you can walk away feeling worse about yourself.

Alternatively, if you’re stuck in a presentation failing to live up to the learning objective and you can’t easily get out of it (i.e., by quitting a webinar or walking out to go to another session), is there value that can be taken away? I think there’s still value to be drived in two specific areas:

  • Use a too-basic presentation as a refresher on the fundamentals you may be overlooking when attempting to teach others on the topic.
  • This type of presentation can also be the basis for putting your knowledge in context relative to the presenter, and gaining greater confidence in sharing your expertise with others in new settings.

The bottom line – figure out how to learn from everyone, in every situation, even if it’s no more than better understanding what not to do. – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer.  Email us at [email protected] or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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7 Responses to “Is a Smart Presenter Always Better?”

  1. I am sorry you felt the content of the Radian6 presentation was not what you expected. In the spirit of your post and finding lessons learned in every opportunity, I would love to know what you expected in the presentation and how we can improve on similar presentations in the future. Please share your thoughts and send to [email protected].

    Lauren Vargas
    Sr. Community Manager at Radian6

    • Mike Brown says:

      Lauren – Thanks for checking in. I’ll go back and re-listen to the presentation and email you some thoughts. Again, thanks for being open to feedback.


  2. Mike Brown says:

    Just to let everyone know, Lauren and I exchanged emails and had a great discussion about presenting at virtual events/webinars and what we as the audience don’t see about some of the specifics in doing these types of presentations.

    Our dialog was a great example of the mutual learning value that social media enables when it’s used constructively. Again, kudos to Lauren for reaching out to get the conversation started!


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