Lately I’ve been seeing more speakers hop up on stage at a conference and say “I didn’t prepare anything so I’m just gonna wing it.” Or they’ll let you know that they’re “Sorry about the quality of the slides – I put them together quickly on the flight over here this morning.”

I’m all for winging it, but when you say “I’m not really prepared” in front of an audience you’re showing them the ultimate disrespect.

People take days off of work, spend hundreds on a conference ticket, travel for thousands of miles, and pay hefty rates for flights and hotels to come hear you speak, and you tell them you didn’t have time to prepare a talk? What’s cool about that? The audience is busy too, but they found time to come to the conference. You can’t find time to properly prepare a presentation for them?

Now… Some of these unprepared talks have been wonderful. The spontaneity is great, and if a speaker knows their topic they don’t really have to prepare in the traditional sense. So it’s not the quality of the talks, it’s the qualifier. If you aren’t prepared, or if you hastily put together your presentation, just don’t tell the audience. Just perform at your best and keep the pity and embarrassment to yourself.