After a recent Marketing Profs virtual event with content of varied quality (the Radian 6 presentation was surprisingly weak), I tweeted the question: Do you prefer to feel smarter than or not as smart as the speaker in a presentation?

The people responding said they preferred to NOT feel as smart as the presenter. There are certainly good reasons for that, since when a presenter is clearly smarter than you on the topic being discussed, it's more likely you'll be:

  • Learning new things
  • Stimulated mentally by the session
  • Able to see where you have learning gaps to work on
  • Aware of at least one new person to reach out to in shoring up expertise you don't have

There can also be some downsides to attending a presentation where the speaker is markedly smarter than the audience. It may be more difficult for the speaker to genuinely connect with the audience because of difficulties in simplifying the message for those still learning. There can also be a self-defeating sense you should be smarter or stronger than you are on a topic. In that case, you can walk away feeling worse about yourself.

Alternatively, if you're stuck in a presentation failing to live up to the learning objective and you can't easily get out of it (i.e., by quitting a webinar or walking out to go to another session), is there value that can be taken away? I think there's still value to be drived in two specific areas:

  • Use a too-basic presentation as a refresher on the fundamentals you may be overlooking when attempting to teach others on the topic.
  • This type of presentation can also be the basis for putting your knowledge in context relative to the presenter, and gaining greater confidence in sharing your expertise with others in new settings.

The bottom line - figure out how to learn from everyone, in every situation, even if it's no more than better understanding what not to do. – Mike Brown

If you'd like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer.  Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!