5 Reasons Why I Dislike Watching Presenters Who Riff


5 Reasons I Dislike Speakers Who RiffI recently attended a conference where one of the keynote presenters didn’t have a prepared talk. Instead he decided to “riff”. I’ve seen him present two other times. The first time (on his way up, I suppose), he had a prepared presentation. The last two times were basically ad hoc tips and advice.

Here are the five reasons I don’t like to watch presentations that are unstructured:

1) Meandering Presentations

Riffs are by definition unplanned and wandering. The value of the points can be hit or miss.

2) Lack of Visuals

There are no visual or charts to help to support the presenter’s points.

3) Lack of New Facts or Thought Leadership

The presenter doesn’t challenge him/herself to over-deliver and present some new facts, examples or thought leadership.

4) No Specifics Communicated in Advance

There are no specific goals for the session documented in advance, so you don’t really know what you’re going to get.

5) Low Value Placed on Attendee Time

The presenter seems to be valuing their time much more highly than that of the attendees.

I’ve seen so many presenters who have really delivered. They include Peter Shankman, Pat Flynn and Scott Monty. The value that I got from these well-planned and executed presentations was extremely high.

Have you attended any conferences or presentations recently?

What have you liked or disliked about the presentations? If you’re a speaker, what’s your opinion?

Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.


  1. Tom,

    I’ve seen Shankman live… He kills it.

    To your point, the meandering speech is very self-absorbed in my opinion. It says, “I know so much more than you that whatever I say is worth the price of admission.” Awful.

    As a speaker myself, every time you talk it should be with the purpose of delivering as much value as possible. As you said Tom, by definition, “the riff” cannot do this.

    Great point.

    Ryan Hanley recently posted..How Rich Snippets Changed Content Marketing Forever (and Why Google Authorship is to Blame)My Profile

    1. Yes, Peter doing the keynote at Blog World LA was really impressive. Yes, the just to see me is worth the price of admission thing doesn’t fly for me. Thanks Ryan for adding to the discussion!

  2. I agree with you. I also dislike presenters who do not prepare speeches. They do not have to have a line per line prepared speech, but I do appreciate it when speakers have an outline of their speeches and tons of visuals.
    Lynne recently posted..What is Emotional Coaching?My Profile

    1. Lynn – agreed. A map of where they’re going (whether they tell us or not) is helpful for delivering value for the listeners. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Imagine having a professor who walks into a lecture without preparing anything. It will definitely piss a lot of students. This goes the same for an audience of a presenter who riffs it.

  4. I don’t entirely dislike them. There are some presenters who do a good job even when they’re not entirely prepared. Those who have the most experience often shine at this,

  5. Presentations should always be prepared. Like you, I do not appreciate “impromptu” speakers who just wing it. Yes, they may be experts but still, the audience will always appreciate someone who really prepared for his time on stage.

  6. Preparedness is everything. Sure there may be times when you have to go impromptu, but for presentations, people should always prepare for it. It will definitely impress the audience.

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