Here's a touchy situation, although it might be pretty common. I would like some other thoughts to be sure I'm not missing something.

A peer and I were visiting a customer in a professional consulting capacity. As part of that visit, my peer gave a presentation about our product to about 60 people in the company, a mix of managers and non-managers. The presentation didn't go well at all and the reason was my peer's presentation skills. The litany of mistakes is long, but not really relevant. Most were pretty basic since group presentations aren't a core part of our job and are required once or twice a year at most. We ended the presentation with only 30 people.

This is too large to leave alone. Because of the poor presentation, we severely impaired a chance at additional revenue, probably 2-3% of our annual target and the image impact was pretty bad too. I don't want to approach my peer about this because his personality is very D/C and I don't believe he would accept it positively or that he would seek to correct the issues. That leaves talking with our manager. Focus on behaviors, professionalism and business impact while avoiding sounding like I'm hacking at my peer...this much is easy.

What other aspects should I be thinking about?


regas14's picture
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In my opinion there is no professional way to avoid delivering the feedback directly to your peer. You observed the behaviours. You observed the effect of those behaviours.

Who better to relate the facts of the case than an eye witness?


sklosky's picture


I suggest that as a caring peer / friend, you can approach this person and help him with improving his skills in that area. I don't think you need to say "you really screwed that one up". I think you can say -- "Here's a good book (or podcast or website) on presenations, why don't you check it out."

Just a thought.


Mark's picture
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Talk to your peer. Be nice, be professional, EXPECT the pushback, and back away if you must without backing down from your point of view.

Then, give a report to your boss that describes your sense of the success of the meeting, leaving out the peer's behaviors. MAKE SURE you talk about WHY you think this will have a negative impact in terms of client response.

Seriously - yes, you saw your peer mess up, but are you layering your impressions of him (clearly you don't like him) on top of the client's response? What did you see the client do? What did the client SAY? What touch points did you miss, what meetings have been cancelled, what asks did you make that were declined?

If you have none of this, tread lightly.

Tell us what the client did/said, if you want guidance there. And I'd disagree that what your peer did is irrelevant. I'd prefer to know, for future posts, what you saw. More information is better for my recommendations.


bflynn's picture

Thanks everyone.

Mark, if you can tell from this one post that I'm not impressed with this person, then I need to be very careful. Then again, I'm a terrible poker player, so you reading that should not be a big surprise to me. There are other reasons I'm not impressed and maybe I'm putting too much weight on this failure.

However, I don't think I'm imagining this one. During the presentation, I was sitting next to our main customer contact. A third of the way through, she asked me if I was capable of stepping in and completing the presentation (no for multiple reasons). At one point, she sighed and said something about not getting too upset about things she couldn't control. Half the audience walked out, some of them two minutes into the presentation. This really was one of the worst delivered presentations I have ever seen.

The issues I observed in specific performance were mainly common bad presentation skills, both building the content and delivering it. This is frustrating because I asked the day before if I could assist with the prep and was told that it was handled. They were avoidable.

Specific delivery issues included:
- not talking loud enough,
- not talking into the microphone when he switched to using one,
- frequently standing partially in front of the projector,
- using technical terms to a functional audience,
- talking to two or three "friendly" people,
- reading the slides,
- distracting repetitive actions and speech phrases,
- fielding questions poorly,
- answering questions before they were finish being asked,
- too many slides (20 for 30 minutes)
- going into too much information on each slide. (4 slides in 25 minutes).

This single failure is not my concern so much as my belief that it will repeat itself in the future. I'm also concerned that there was damage to our image and the project is more difficult now than it would have been otherwise.

I've already talked with our manager, focusing on the missed business opportunity. Thanks to your suggestions, it went well and we may be able to recover if we can get others to help. I will carefully give peer feedback next week when we're together again. I'm reading him as a D/C communications style. I believe that he is not likely to be receptive to hearing anything about a bad performance, but I've got a week to figure out the best way to deliver this to him. And he could surprise me, which would be very welcome.

Again, thanks for the gut check and all the assistance.


Mark's picture
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Great note. You're getting there!

Why are you waiting til next week/ You already talked to your boss? You, sir, are on shaky ground with your peer. You better get over to his office and drop the bomb. Probably too late.

Great list, though still inferences in there, like "poorly", "frequently", and "friendly".

And don't talk to him about your concerns for the future. That's a slap in the face. Give him peer feedback. THAT's ALL.

Let us know.


bflynn's picture

Why are you waiting til next week/ You already talked to your boss? You, sir, are on shaky ground with your peer. You better get over to his office and drop the bomb. Probably too late.

I'd prefer to do this in person, but we are not in the same office. Otherwise it would already be done. I don't think even a phone call is good enough. I agree that last week would have been excuse.

The conversation with the boss was business focused, not personel focused. My peer's name was not even used.

If he doesn't accept feedback, I don't think there is a great deal more I can do. At that point though, I'll have done everything I can and it becomes a closed issue. My relationship with him is shaky and that is my problem to always deal with. I doubt we'll ever be close friends, but hopefully we can have a productive and stable work relationship.

I will let you know next week how things turn out.


Mark's picture
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Okay, that's fine.

But don't confuse a business conversation with your boss that doesn't mention names with your boss not talking to him. He was there. He will probably have sniffed out your issues.

Tread lightly, politely, and directly.


bflynn's picture

Two additional pieces of information, then following up with the results -

1) I did not mention our exact relationship. Although we are peers, I am in a slightly subordinate position through having less experience in our technical arena. Formally, I am being trained by him, although we've both been told that the training is solely technical since I have more experience in all the non-technical areas.

Given my slightly lower position, I don't feel that I'm in a position to offer feedback. And if I tried at the wrong time or in a direct way, I'm pretty certain it would be rejected outright.

2) I initially thought this person was a mix of D/C. I reviewed the DISC model and I am incorrect. He is 100% unadulterated high-D, with most of the unchecked high-D behaviors.

Confession: I realize now that his style also influenced part of my negative impression. I was assigning intent to his behavior and it impacted my view of him. The other part of my negative impression was valid as it dealt with the communications faults, both in the presentation and when dealing with others on our project.

I see no sign that is aware of the effect of how he communicates. Others on the project have been negatively impacted by his style and it has hurt communications. I see this as a much bigger issue than presentation skills.

I've started very carefully trying to talk about communications style by using a very simple "when you...the effect is" structure. We've had several conversations this week, but there was one piece of "feedback" last night during dinner that I think worked. As we talked about how one meeting went, I said "Yes, when you interrupted J____ this morning, I thought she disengaged from the discussion for a while. (pause) Were you trying to save time by answering her question quickly?" There was a followup discussion about how different people could see the same behavior differently and how someone else could view his kind interruption in a negative light. It seemed to have an effect that made him stop and think about it and my impression is that interruptions were a little less today.

There is still a lot to do. But, we are moving in the right direction. I just have to get better.

Mark, if I haven't said this before - Thank You. Over the past six months since you've introduced DISC, I've started seeing relationships very differently. You have opened my eyes and even if I never took another step forward, this learning has already been life changing.


Mark's picture
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You're welcome. Glad we're helping.

And hey, think about this: don't confuse someone not responding well to feedback with there not being value in giving it. The benefits of giving it are often different than the benefits of receiving it.