Creating a presentation can be a bummer. There are times when you are asked to say something but you have nothing to say. Potentially even worse are times when you are asked to promote product you know is not good. In those situations you need to be mindful of one thing - pretending you are someone you are not. It can get you into lots of trouble. Preaching water and drinking wine will get noticed by your audience.
I had experience with this issue and even though I did not make the mistake of lying, I can hardly imagine anything worse than being called out as you are standing on a stage.
Horrible legacy cannot be defended
Couple of months ago we were tasked with creating a webpage. Our time was extremely limited. We had almost zero content up to the very end just before deadline and even then, the content left much to be desired. We did not follow the optimal process. It quickly became a mess. And at the end, it was just glued together - it wasn't that good.
Later on I was approached to promote our department. They asked me to present the successful delivery of said webpage. And I asked my self, what the hell? Successful delivery? When did that happen? The entire process was a catastrophe causing baldness due to need to pull ones hair out.
You can't promote the good in something that is on average bad. What are you gonna talk about? And what are you going to do when the audience starts asking questions?
It is important to learn from ones mistakes. It is absolutely okay to discuss what went wrong and how to fix it or prevent it next time. It is not the best promo since you are effectively saying you failed, but it shows that you can improve and it could help your audience by teaching them that it is normal to fail if you use this knowledge to get better.
Lying to sell
So our page wasn't that good. I didn't want to present something bad. Standing there in front of all those people and talking about something sub-optimal we created, that wasn't exactly my dream. Not because it was painful to talk about failure, but because we learned nothing from it. People thought it is simpler to believe it was high-end webpage than to accept the reality.
When I raised this issue I got rather fast reply: "Okay, the page is not optimal. So how about we describe our page and instead of mentioning all those wrong things that we failed in, we describe them as if we have done them properly?" And I became amazed. Why would we describe our page and lie about how it was done if we had clearly neglected to do it properly.
They wanted me to lie. They wanted me to pretend that the page is a holy grail of internet - that it is amazing. All this while standing in front of big projection of the webpage. The audience would have seen the webpage behind me. They would have seen all the problems, all the mistakes that were made right when I would have been talking about the unparalleled success of it.
Once again. This was not something I would be willing to do. I am all in for summarizing the mistakes we have made, the pain points we had. I am interested in being honest. But honesty in this case was not the best promo and once again it was not the way to go.
The blame game
At the end I decided to ignore the webpage. I preferred not to promote work that was bad. I simply decided to educate the people. Instead of promoting ourselves directly, I thought educating audience on how webpages should be created was more important. I never claimed we followed those principles and if they asked, I would have stated that we failed to deliver properly.
It was the honorable thing to do. I am not going to lie to them when they themselves could go check that webpage and see it was not ironed out. And it proved to be not just the honorable thing, but the right thing.
At some point one member of the audience asked a question about our ability to follow the process I just described. And guess what happened? The blame game. Person who was asked redirected that question to someone else stating that that someone else is responsible for the mistakes. The precise example of why this kind of delusion is not good.
If your products suck, accept it and learn from it. Lying gets you only so far. If you can learn from it before promoting the product, awesome for you. It means you still have time to fix things and promote really good product.
If you do not have enough time then you have to decide whether you want to promote the product in its current state with all the mistakes or you want to promote something else. Your awesome teamwork for example! x) In my case it was my vision of creating best product. The distant reality. The goal the audience should strife for as well.
Even though I have not promoted us as the best designers and developers, at least I promoted ourselves as people who have some knowledge about stuff. We could still struggle with the implementation, but at least our vision makes sense.
Lying, pretending to be the gods and failing to deliver is something I would avoid. Having sub-optimal product and presenting it as the most polished one on the market will kick you in the arse at some point. They say that lies have short legs.