Some people are natural presenters. Most are not. If you have a personality that thrives when you’re in front of a group of people and your audience is always captivated and engaged when you speak, and you’re charismatic, and you move well, and you’re a true performer, well, then this post is not for you. But if you’re like the rest of us, you probably don’t love giving presentations. And you probably worry about what the audience is thinking about how you look and act and sound and how smart you seem to them. Some things you have little control over: like your facial complexion or your personality. But there are plenty of things you do have control over. And when you mess up those things you can control, it’s annoying. And you’re audience will either tune you out completely, or remember you for reasons you don’t want to be remembered. Follow this list, and you’ll be in pretty good shape. For more annoying presentation tips, see the Top 12 Most Annoying PowerPoint Presentation Mistakes.
oing Over Time
Audiences have expectations for how long you’ll be in front of their face. Most presentations have a very specific time slot allotted to them and, every second you go over that time, your audience will hate you one degree more. Trust me, no matter how good your story is about how you hooked a driver’s ear as you flyfished across a highway, your audience will tune you out at the ring of the bell. With every minute you go over, your audience will interpret your personality in this order : unaware > aloof > obnoxious > narcissistic > disrespectful > the most annoying person they’ve ever listened to. Ever.
#2: Complaining and Blaming
Nobody likes the complainer. In any situation. So if you get up to present, and the lighting is bad or the projector doesn’t work or the coffee was out or the dry cleaner didn’t press your pants or your intern didn’t do your slides right–get over it. The audience expects you to be prepared and professional and to have a plan B. Whining isn’t helpful. It’s annoying.
#3: Wearing Weird or Revealing Clothing
Now I’m not here to critique your personal style. But you can count on your audience doing just that. If you wear something fairly traditional but professional, with neutral colors, your audience won’t think a thing about your style. They’ll focus on your message. But if you wear a T-Shirt with a print of a large face on it, or if you wear a multicolored scarf that looks like a giant bath towel, or if you have flip flops on, or your breasts are peering over your low-cut blouse, or your earrings hang down to your elbows–your audience will judge you. And they’ll find you annoying.
#4: Being Unaware of Nervous Habits
Most people don’t realize what their nervous habits are. We’ve all got them. Some people sway their hips while talking. Others flip their hair back every third second. Some scratch their nose (or pick their nose), or hold their elbow, or play with their ear. Shoot, I even watched a guy put his hands in and out of his pockets over and over and over and over again. Believe me, it was annoying. But regardless of what your “thing” is, recognize it. And stop it. Practice in front of a group of people first and have them tell you what you do.
#5: Reading Your Message Without Looking Up
Now, there are times when you’ll want to read things. Verbatim. Some presentations require that you articulate complicated thoughts, which may be better if written down. Some require you to be politically correct and legally careful. But, typically, reading is boring. It doesn’t allow you to interact with your audience. It becomes a crutch, an obvious indication that you didn’t practice and that you don’t know how to speak. It’s annoying. That being said, if you read but look up once in a while and you change the tone of your voice, you’ll be far less annoying. And less annoying is more engaging.
#6: Looking in Arbitrary Directions
If you’ve ever seen someone do this, you’ll know what I mean here. If you look at the floor or some random wall while you speak, your audience will wonder why. They’ll first wonder what’s on the floor or the wall that is so interesting. When they realize there is nothing worth looking at, they’ll wonder why you find a blank wall more interesting than them. Then, they’ll recognize that you’re just nervous, that your confidence ditched you at the door, and that they were giving you the benefit of the doubt when they shouldn’t have. Your credibility will wilt and your message will be weak and your presentation will be, the longer it goes, annoying.
#7: Staring at the Screen
Staring at the screen isn’t arbitrary, like in #4. The audience knows quite well why you’re looking at the screen: you can’t remember what you were going to say about the topic, so the screen is reminding you. When you stare at the screen often and for extended periods, you end up standing sideways. Would you listen to your friend if they kept standing sideways while speaking to you? No. You’d find it annoying. And weird.
#8: Standing in front of the Screen
If you’re using digital slides (like PowerPoint) don’t get caught standing in front of the screen. Your forehead and chest were not meant to be projected onto, so don’t let them be. You don’t want some arrow icon to inadvertently point to an unmentionable on your body do you? Or a word plastered across your face? For an audience it can sometimes be funny (but not in the way you want). Usually, it’s just annoying.
When you pace, you look nervous. You’ll also drive your audience nuts as you go back and forth, back and forth across the stage. Plus, if you have a projector, you’ll be walking in front of the screen, then away from the screen, and back in front. The lighting bouncing on and off of you will distract. Make sure you move, but don’t do it rhythmically (which is annoying). Do it purposefully (which is awesome).
#10: Saying Filler Words like “like,” “you know,” or “um…”
Depending on your cultural background, personality, and possibly even age, you probably use different filler words. But most of us Americans say “um” a lot. Especially when we’re nervous. But “um” implies thinking; too much thinking implies not prepared; and not prepared is annoying. “Like” and “you know” (and others like them) sound like you just walked of the Clueless film set. And clueless isn’t cool when presenting. It’s annoying.