Can a Presentation Get You Fired?


Can a Presentation Get You Fired

Last week we came across the following article, published on the Business Insider web site: The Only Video You Need To See To Understand Why Marissa Mayer Fired Her COO. From this headline you wouldn’t think the article has anything to do with presentations.


But it does.


Take a look at this video here:



Bottom-line, it seems the COO of Yahoo, hired (from Google) just fifteen months before, was let go for several reasons but, as per the title of the article, the video tells the story. Henrique de Castro did not perform admirably in a key presentation, to put it mildly.


Admittedly, and various news articles confirm this, De Castro wasn’t fired because of this specific presentation, but this bad presentation attests to the fact that this was a generally poorly performing COO.


The important point here? Key presentations are always strategic moments not only for a company, like we’ve said many times before, but also for the presenter and his/her career. The Yahoo incident is a clear example of this, and of how a bad presentation can have catastrophic consequences.


But what were the weakest points of this presentation? What should you be attentive to when you create your own presentations?

– Do not lump together a bunch of disjointed messages.

In this presentation, De Castro’s speaking part consisted of a rambling series of pieces of information, which made it hard to follow. So what you should do is create an interesting story based on a logical line of reasoning that makes total sense and is easy to understand.



– If you do not know what is your main message, postpone the presentation!

As we can see, De Castro had no clear main message, and the result is that the presentation comes across as lacking transparency, clarity and vision. So it’s important to know your main message, then state it clearly at the outset, then reinforce it several times throughout your speech. Without a main message to hang their hats on, your audience will feel lost.



– Do not drone on about the “We”

We, we, we … If you pay attention to the five minutes De Castro speaks, you hear the word “we” several times. But it would’ve made far more sense to mention benefits, instead of just talking about Yahoo. How could what was being presented change or improve the lives of the audience? See, an audience is egocentric by nature and will be interested in something only if they think it’s going to help them in some way.



– Do not use images/slides that are irrelevant and confusing

This presentation had a poor visual support that didn’t help to convey a message. With the slides De Castro used in this presentation, nobody in the audience could understand what he was talking about exactly. Rather than help him get a message across, the visuals only served to further complicate and confuse the speech. So if you find that your supporting visuals are confusing or irrelevant, don’t use them, period.



– Don’t give a presentation without rehearsing

On several occasions it is possible to see that De Castro is clearly reading from a teleprompter. This shows a lack of preparation. For your own presentations, always take time to rehearse and revise your speech as many times as is needed, with the goal of being as independent as possible from notes, memos and cueing equipment.



– Know your own limits

One thing people tend to do at presentations is use humor. Well, this is OK if you’re naturally funny, but if you try too hard  it just won’t work. Your attempts will come across as fake. The same is true if you’re speaking in a language not your own. Clearly, English isn’t De Castro’s first language, and he’s not fluent, so he should have acknowledged this and memorized every word of his speech to avoid  mistakes. If you’re called on  to give a presentation in a language not your own, make sure you know every word of that speech, because there’ll be no room for improvisation. You just won’t be fast enough on your feet. Bottom-line, you need to know yourself, your weaknesses and strengths, to know exactly what you can and can’t do when making a presentation.



In short, because a bad presentation can have dire consequences, you should make sure you’re always going to have a great presentation moment. And for this, just follow the lessons we share in our blogs and e-books.