My girlfriend (SO from this point forward) is working on a pilot project that is designed to help young start-up companies understand more about technology and how they can use it to better their business.

She is interning/part timing at the company that is a major supporter of the project and plans to show an overview to the major figures behind it.

My SO and I were reading through her proposal and we found some grammatical, syntactical, and formatting errors that may make the proposal seem a bit less professional than if they were not there. She is afraid it will be a glaring issue and will mar the presentation. Although this proposal guide is supplementary to the overall presentation. The proposal has already been reprinted and there is no opportunity to make changes now.

We were wondering if it is better to address the errors prior to the meeting by apologizing for the errors and clarifying that it is a draft of basic ideas and is open to discussions and revisions or if they should be ignored and only commented about if brought up?

  • uh, why don't you fix them? the errors you're mentioning aren't hard to resolve.
    – bharal
    Oct 30 '14 at 2:09
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    also, why use "SO from this point forward", if you're not, you know, going to use the "SO" ever again? That's the kind of formatting error you should fix up - and you can have that one on the house.
    – bharal
    Oct 30 '14 at 2:11
  • @bharal The proposal guide is probably already distributed. Another reason for Elias to edit the question
    – user8036
    Oct 30 '14 at 7:38
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    @Elias Is it a draft of basic ideas, or are you just making that up to cover up? If it is a draft. don't bother mentioning anything.
    – user8036
    Oct 30 '14 at 7:39
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    Too late this time, but maybe a good idea for you and your SO to read through a proposal before you submit it. In this case, I would apologize up front - it depends on the audience, but grammatical and syntactical errors can reflect poorly on the presenter. Oct 30 '14 at 13:43

Personally, I would acknowledge the errors, apologize for them, and stress your willingness to make any necessary changes.

I deal with a fair amount of similar presentations and my thoughts in each situation tend to go something like this:

If the submitter acknowledges the problem, he/she is demonstrating their awareness of the document's shortcomings and their intention to correct them. While the situation isn't perfect, I respect the awareness and candor that he/she has brought to the conversation and they gain a certain amount of trust.

If the submitter does not acknowledge the problem, I am left wondering whether the mistakes were the result of sloppy work (i.e. submitter knows about them and didn't bother to fix them) or incompetence (i.e. submitter doesn't understand that there is a problem). Neither leaves me with a good impression.

  • I was torn between the pros/cons of acknowledging a mistake before or after an attendee notices/can see them, and your answer helped exposed the benefits of honing up to the mistake.
    – Elias
    Oct 30 '14 at 14:17
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    I think this is a good answer, but I think it's also important to move on quickly once the apology has been made. The goal is to acknowledge the errors, not emphasize them.
    – David K
    Oct 30 '14 at 15:24
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    @DavidK - agreed. No reason to dwell on it.
    – Roger
    Oct 30 '14 at 15:41

This is one reason why you shouldn't produce hard copies of anything and instead, you should store them in a repository and provide links to the repository: you can update your docs without worrying about what earlier copies of your docs are floating around.

I suggest that you say right at the beginning of the presentation that your eagle eyed SO spotted some editing errors of omission and commission and while they don't affect the accuracy of the content, they have been fixed. You provide the links to the repository where the fixed documents are and you get on with presentation.

Your top priority at the meeting is to get on with the presentation. This means, when the presentation starts, quickly clear any issue that could get in the way on the presentation and get on with the presentation.

  • Although there wasn't the time to fix the issue, I really like the idea about a repository for the repaired document and a way for the attendees to get it.
    – Elias
    Oct 30 '14 at 14:16

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