WHEREAS life is short and our time on Earth is finite;

WHEREAS the duration of a bad presentation is subjectively many times longer than that of a good one;

WHEREAS the dedication of audience’s time and attention to a speaker is a gift of considerable value, not to be taken lightly;

THEREFORE we solemnly declare these to be the Presentation Audience’s Bill of Rights and Freedoms, and pledge to respect and uphold them to the best of our ability.

Every audience has these rights:

  • The fundamental right to have their intelligence, time and attention treated with respect, from which all of these other rights and freedoms flow;
  • The right to something relevant of value, whether it be information of practical utility, entertainment, inspiration or a compelling story
  • The right to a presentation that fulfills whatever promise was made in its description
  • The right to a speaker who is alert, fully present and engaged, and who makes every effort to capture and sustain the audience’s interest
  • The right to a well-organized presentation, phrased clearly and well
  • The right to a speaker who is there because of the value they can provide to the audience, and not only because of their role within an organization or their organization’s sponsorship of the event
  • The right to a presentation that is created with oral delivery in mind, and which is not an essay divided into slides, projected onto a screen and read aloud
  • The right to a well-functioning sound system that delivers the speaker’s words audibly and clearly
  • The right to a schedule with at least modest predictive validity

Every audience is entitled to these freedoms:

  • Freedom from sales pitches or personal resumés thinly disguised as speeches, unless clearly identified as such
  • Freedom from crashing static, line noise and explosive pops from the connection and disconnection of audio equipment
  • Freedom from arbitrary PowerPoint, used only because someone assumed there ought to be a slideshow
  • Freedom from haranguing and demands by the speaker for approval, agreement or applause
  • Freedom from avoidable distractions, be it from fellow audience members holding conversations or attention-getting motion graphics on the stage
  • Freedom from prolonged delays because of a failure to test AV connections beforehand.

We, as speechwriters, speakers and convenors of events, will uphold these rights and defend these freedoms with every word we write and utter, every slide we craft and every room we book.

(With thanks to Mark Bowden, Frank Saptel, Leesa Renee Hall, Ben Ziegler, Jim Martin and Pamela Slim for their suggestions and inspiration.)