The Worst Time on the Agenda to be a Presenter (or a Facilitator)

What’s the worst agenda time to be a presenter? What can go wrong for the facilitator? Gosh! From teaching presentation skills and having a reputation as a presenter and facilitator, I’ve been asked those questions many times. My answer is always the same.

Every time slot has its bad aspects.


  • People in the audience with ADHD who just can’t stay on point
  • People who think they already know the material (so they stop listening)
  • Audiovisual issues
  • Can’t find an outlet to charge their phone
  • Cell phones (ringing; people taking the call … IN THE ROOM)
  • Leaders or presenters changing the slides
  • Documents the audience brought with them to read while you present
  • People checking their email
  • “Let’s change the agenda”
  • Late presenters
  • Long discussions (…”but this is important”)
  • Self-determined need to stand at the back of the room (back problems and lousy chairs?)
  • Self-determined need to step out
  • No discussion or questions
  • Noises or smells
  • Audience member with OCD who can’t get past a typo or spelling error
  • Power cords getting pulled
  • Sidebar conversations
  • Software version incompatibility
  • Spills
  • Sun angle shining on the screen
  • Texts
  • Too hot
  • Too cold
  • Vitamin N (need nicotine)
  • Wrong version of the slides
  • “Is there a room we can use for a sidebar (or phone call)?”


  • Wrong room set-up
  • Attendees getting their name tag
  • People who hate their assigned seats
  • Distribution of materials (to each person)
  • “Do you have an extra (fill in the blank)?”


  • Get them to show up
  • Wake ‘em up
  • Too much or too little introduction
  • Not enough chairs
  • Don’t like breakfast


  • Caffeine speeding
  • Water pressure (they need a potty break)
  • Don’t like the food at the break


  • Get ‘em back from break
  • “Speed up, we’re running behind schedule”
  • Hotel checkout


  • YouILunch (I am between you and lunch)
  • “We’re way ahead of/behind schedule”


  • Getting their lunch
  • The crunch of lunch
  • Not enough food
  • Wrong kind of food (unknown dietary restrictions)


  • Carbo-narcosis (they’ve eaten so much, they fall asleep)
  • Getting them back from lunch


  • Boredom
  • “Speed up, we’re running behind schedule”
  • Water pressure (they need a potty break)
  • “Slow down, we’re way ahead of schedule”


  • Get ’em back from break
  • Sugar high
  • “Gotta make a flight”
  • Don’t like the food at the break


  • “Way behind schedule, out of time”
  • YouIDinner (I am between you and dinner)
  • YouIBar (I am between you and the bar)
  • “We need to end early”


  • Clean-up

This is written from the perspective of conducting an all-day meeting (e.g. an off-site). Business meetings, during the workday, are affected by many, if not most, of the features I’ve described.

There are some simple things that can be done to avoid or de-fuze some of these things.


  1. Set ground-rules as you open the meeting (cell-phones – “put them on stun;” “take calls in the halls”; sidebar conversations).
  2. Include a question about dietary restrictions with the invitation.
  3. Know it’s coming so take it in stride.


  1. Check for software version problems the day before the meeting.
  2. Adjust your style or technique based on the time slot you’ve been given (e.g. use an interactive, dynamic, or action-oriented technique right after lunch).
  3. Recognize the potential for problems and do what you can to adapt.


  1. Need to stick to the agenda. Don’t let discussion go on and on. Use a “Parking Lot.”
  2. Respect the facilitator and the difficulty of the job.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently a volunteer at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and the Troy Historic Village and Historical Society.

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