Going Off Message

I wanted to write a blog today addressing some issues with presentation skills, as that’s March’s theme at Working Voices, but I was struggling to find anything in the news not related to the ongoing situation in Ukraine and more specifically, Crimea.

What I did find in the Huffington Post was a clip of Russia Today host, Abby Martin, apparently going very off message to end her segment with her own views on Russia’s recent actions. Russia Today is often seen as being closely tied to the Russian government, and its editorial stances often advocate Russian actions. This is what Abby Martin said:



Now I’m not going to comment on what she said, other than to say the situation is no doubt a complicated one. I’m not sure whether Martin had received approval for her comments, but I was quite impressed with how she delivered them. She was clearly impassioned and keen to get across her independence, but she remained calm and kept her composure. She didn’t ramble on and she didn’t repeat herself.

Of course there is little opportunity to this when presenting in business, or rather little need. Anyone thinking of going off message in a presentation needs to think about whether what they have to say would be better received on an alternate platform, what their real motivations are for going off message, and how relevant it would be. And there is a difference between quickly mentioning something that has bearing on what’s been said, and going on a tirade.

In reality, the only time presenters might go off message is when someone asks them an off message question, and even then they should be careful not to say anything that undermines their whole presentation. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself off message, keep calm, articulate, and don’t become angry or too emotional – breathe and take your time, just like Abby Martin.

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