Speaker Bingo: 9 things a speaker should never be heard saying

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Presentation Tips

I recently posted on a slide deck with tips on presenting and Ruven Gotz made a great point that inspired me to write this post.

Ruven Gotz This messaging (about how to build better decks) is now at least 5 years old, and yet I still hear "I'm not going to drain this", or "sorry you can't read that, but I'll send it to you to read later" a LOT. What's it going to take for people to realize that their decks are mostly aweful?

So here are my personal top things I hear that make me cringe when I hear them at presentations:

1. “Sorry I’m late… but…”

There are no excuses for being late for a presentation, be there early, be prepared.

2. “So a quick introduction to who I am…” [spends the next 10 mins discussing himself]

A good short sharp introduction is really important to set the tone on why they are sitting listening to you but don’t go on for ever…anymore than one slide is WAY TOO MUCH!

3. “I’m not going to talk to this…you can read it later”

A presentation should only include what  you are presenting, if you want reference material for later…create this as a separate document, blog post or white paper.

4. “Can you read that at the back?…you don’t need to read this anyway”

There is no excuse for having small text on a slide that can’t be read. A good guideline is no smaller than 24pt in PowerPoint e.g. 6 lines in a text box BUT this is really too much text anyway.

5. “This has nothing to do with what I’m supposed to be presenting…but I’ll spend 15 minutes on it anyway”

If you have a title and an abstract and people are sitting in the room expecting that topic…present it! Be very careful not to get side tracked by questions as youve set an expectation and you should stick to it.

6. [pause] [reading slide] [pause] “ok…right…I am meant to say…”

If you do this, you’ll instantly lose your audience as it shows you haven’t prepared and practiced.

7. “That’s a great question, I’ll take that in the Q&A at end” (and then never address it)

If you are going to take questions during your presentation but then decide to ‘park’ them, have a note pad nearby to write it down or remember who asked and reach out to them in the Q&A.

8. “I’m running out of time so I’ll just skip this section”

This also really shows that you haven’t practiced your presentation before hand, especially if you skip a whole section. This is why it is important to handle Q&A in a controlled way and where you can postpone them to the end. Often questions asked are answered later on in a presentation so you can respond with “That’s a great question, I’ll get to that in a moment”.

9. [yawn] “sorry been a long week”

Conferences can be tough, especially if you cross time zones and present within a few days of arriving…or you are in Las Vegas and fall to the peer pressure of staying out late. I tend to set a curfew on myself the night before…especially when I get 9am in the morning sessions.

As a speaker this is something you can look out for in your own presentations OR in other speakers that you see present to give constructive feedback to. No-one is perfect, I am far from it in terms of presenting and always learning, I find there is definitely a certain tact you need to give feedback. A good lesson I learnt in the speaker training I did back in Australia with NRG Solutions was for every bit of negative feedback give two pieces of positive feedback (Steve Herzberg is an amazing trainer!).

If you have any others…would love to hear them in the comments section below!

Series Navigation<< Approaches to presenting code demos to a Developer audience10 Tips for presenting at conferences >>

2 thoughts on “Speaker Bingo: 9 things a speaker should never be heard saying”

  1. Re: Feedback to other speakers, wrap up the ‘negative’ in two positives but if you can provide a suggestion as to how to address the problem. So provide a Commendation, a Recommendation and a Commendation (CRC)

  2. Great list Jeremy. I’m sure I’ve broken every one of these rules in my time as a speaker.

    I think that one of the toughest things for a speaker to learn is time management during the session. You don’t want to cut off a question with a sharp “please hold questions to the end” because a good question, in context, can be a useful thing for everyone, and it can help you to refine your presentation for next time. But, I’ve see a speaker get that ‘deer in the headlights’ look as a person won’t let go of a question, or starts to argue with you, or starts to go back-and-forth with another attendee.

    As a service to the rest of the room, you need to be able to cut this short without being rude. Like: “this is a really interesting discussion, I’ll be available after the presentation, and we can dig into it” or “I really need a couple of minutes to think through a response to that, let’s pick this up during Q&A”. Then, without pausing, turn towards the screen (or some other body language indicating ‘moving on’), and pick up your presentation where you left off.


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