Worst Presentation Ever: Harvard Professor

George TorokCommunication skills, Insights, Leadership communication, Presentation Tips Leave a Comment


Imagine that you are invited to hear a professor speak

Does that get you excited?

It’s a professor from Harvard.

He was a bestselling business book author.

He has spoken to business leaders around the world.

Impressive credentials that set high expectations but…

This was the worst presentation that I’ve heard from a business leader. Read on to discover what not to do during your presentation.

Learn from the mistakes of this Harvard professor.

Harvard Is known for the use of case studies as a teaching tool. The presentation from this Harvard professor offered a vivid case study of “How NOT to Deliver a Presentation”. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. He was a bad presenter and didn’t know it.  His presentation was a “good example of a bad example”.

Why are University Professors Boring?

It’s no surprise that a university professor might be a boring speaker. Maybe they are encouraged to be boring. The rumor is that professors are supposed to make life difficult for students. I vaguely recall sleeping through many university lectures during my post-secondary education because they were boring.

Does that explain why professors speak to a business audience with a similar disdain? (Do they really believe that a PhD makes them godlike?) Some professors offer their consulting services to business. They do that for two reasons. It can be a lucrative source of income. Two, it provides research and anecdotes for their teaching and publications. You’d think with that much at stake; they would “up” their game.

Worst Presentation Ever

Back to this annoying presentation. This was the worst business presentation I’ve suffered through in the past 20 years. As a professional speaker and executive speech coach, I’ve attended hundreds of conferences and corporate meetings. Naturally, I observe other speakers for lessons and insights to help my clients.

Impressive Credentials


He had impressive credentials. He was Harvard educated and a Harvard educator. He’d authored at least 15 books. He was endorsed by Jack Welch and had spoken to business executives around the world. Wow! Sounds impressive!

But… he was a lousy speaker. Calling him “lousy” is being kind and polite to him but not to his audience. He certainly wasn’t kind and polite to the audience.

This person illustrated that you can excel in certain areas but that doesn’t make you a great speaker.

You might have a good message but that doesn’t make you a great speaker.

You might be intelligent and well educated but that doesn’t make you a great speaker.

You might have written some popular books but that doesn’t make you a great speaker.

You might have spoken many times to esteemed academic and business audiences around the world but that doesn’t make you a great speaker.

None of those characteristics even qualify you as an adequate speaker. This professor was far less than adequate.

Speaking is a skill and if you didn’t invest the time, effort, insight, reflection or learning into public speaking you won’t magically become a great speaker.

The only way to become an effective speaker is to learn the techniques, get training (or coaching) and practice. Use every presentation as a learning opportunity to get better.

What did the speaker do  wrong in his presentation?

His most annoying behaviors could be summed up with these three observations:

  • We didn’t understand him
  • We couldn’t see him
  • He insulted us

Each of these was a tactical error but the strategic errors were that he appeared to be unaware or uncaring about his audience.

You could add one more point – he had an ego problem.

He didn’t know what he didn’t know and he didn’t seem to care.

When you appear to be unaware of your audience you demonstrate that you don’t care about your audience. It also suggests that you might be self-centered and immature.

Was his ego more important to him than his message or audience?


PS: This is the first of  three parts in this presentation review.  If the best lessons are from the mistakes of other, this will offer powerful lessons for you.


Worst Presentation Ever

Worst presentation ever Ram Charan






Worst presentation ever from Harvard professor


Read Worst Presentation: Part two




Worst presentation ever manure


Worst Presentation: Part Three





Tell me about the worst presentation you attended.

What did the presenter do that made it so unbearable?


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