3 Ways You Can Annoy Your Audience in a Presentation

June 23, 2014

presentation tips

Don’t you hate it when speakers get off track, never had a track, run over their allotted time, or use a lot of um’s? How about when they have eye-charts for slides, ignore you, or even insult you? Maybe you’re so annoyed you resort to texting rather than continue to be assaulted.

You’re not alone. Here are 3 things that consistently top of the list of things that annoy the audience. (Avoid them if you don’t want to be doing the annoying.)

1. Bad slides. When you design the slides for your notes, and use them to deliver content, they’ll probably be boring and unreadable. Slides should help the audience get an “aha.”

Put your notes where only you can see them; make the slides as simple as possible (avoid full sentences); and ask yourself these 3 questions.

  •  Would I want to look at this slide? This isn’t about being clever, it’s about bowing to human nature. (If they don’t want to look at it, you’re swimming upstream.)
  • What’s the point of this slide? Once you can state the point in 5 or 6 words, you’ll see things that aren’t needed to make that point. Take them out. See how you visually (that means without words) make that point. This helps you and the audience.
  •  Do I even need this slide? Speakers tend to use slides because they can, or they like the chart or picture, or because everyone else uses them. Not helpful to your goal. Make every slide justify how using it will help you get the outcome you want.

2. Boring content. Audiences hate to be stuck in a chair listening to things they consider irrelevant. If it’s put together like everyone else’s (broad brush strokes, textbook words), they won’t listen.

No subject is boring when the speaker digs into why it’s important. So, be clear on why they need this information and how it relates to them. Structure your talk around this. Let them know throughout the talk why it matters to them, as well as telling them before you get to the meat of your talk. Do it right after you’ve opened with something that gets them to start listening and stop texting.

Use stories, examples, real life applications to help you make your message compelling. People are visual. Visuals on your slides and visual words will help you make your case.


Carmine Gallo on Getting Away from Using Bullet Points in Presentations

3. Failing to connect. The most important part of any presentation is you connecting with the audience. You connect by talking their language. You connect by sharing information rather than being afraid to be wrong. You connect by paying attention to them and their needs, as well as the next 4 points.

  • Be clear on who they are and what they want and gear your talk to those.
  • Respect them regardless of whether you agree with them or not.
  • Stay conversational and never take anything personally.
  • And don’t make fun of any groups of people because one or more of those people may be in your audience.

As a general rule, there’s one thing you can do to make a huge change in all three of those: If you care more about helping the audience than you do about impressing them, you’ll automatically be less annoying overall. And you’ll be less nervous.

For more presentation tips, check out Getting Over Yourself: A Guide to Painless Public Speaking and More by Barbara Rocha

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About The Author

Barbara Rocha, a nationally known speaker, trainer, author and consultant, is Director of Barbara Rocha and Associates, a communications training firm based in Pasadena, California. For more than 30 years she has conducted over 1200 of its training seminars for well over 11,000 business executives. These seminars teach verbal and written communications; they are tailored to the specific needs of clients. Other services include keynote speaker, conference session leader, individual coaching and speech preparation. Clients include Anchorage Daily News, Century Housing Corporation, Ericsson Turkey, ExxonMobil, Federal Reserve Bank, Metropolitan Water District, Southern California Edison, Turkcell, Turner Construction, Verizon, The Washington Post. Rocha earned her B.A. from UCLA, taught in public schools, did graduate study at California State University and earned her M.A. in history, writing a thesis analyzing the speaking ability of Winston Churchill. She is the author of Getting Over Yourself: A Guide to Painless Public Speaking. She has been conducting courses for the American Management Association since 1980.


  1. avatar

    I totally agree with this article. If you have bad slides, boring content, or are failing to connect then your audience is going to bored and annoyed.

  2. avatar

    Please make Power Point go away. A simple handout allows you to leave the lights on, lets people stay awake, and enhances your speaker status.

  3. avatar

    Please consider your audience. If we are not cube dwellers, if we spend our days moving about, interacting with customers,
    being sat in a darkened room and spoken to for more than 20 minutes will put us to sleep. Modulate your tone, tell a joke and keep it short.
    Droning voice + Dark + Repetitive content = a lovely snooze but not much learning.

  4. avatar

    Please consider your audience. If we are not cube dwellers, if we spend our days moving about, interacting with customers, being sat in a darkened room and spoken to for more than 20 minutes will put us to sleep. Modulate your tone, tell a joke and keep it short. Droning voice + Dark + Repetitive content = a lovely snooze but not much learning.

  5. avatar

    Do you use powerpoint?

  6. avatar

    My worst presentation was because I did not understand who my audience was and then when I figured that out during the presentation, I tried to wing it. It was terrible but a great learning experience at the same time. As far as these other things I don’t even like to use Power Point slides and seldom use hand-outs EXCEPT to give after the presentation. These just take their eyes off of you. I have an agenda I follow and have a pretty good idea how long it will take.

    Good article which I will forward to our chapters

  7. avatar

    A topic will be boring to someone if they aren’t interested in it. I don’t care how exciting you make it. If I don’t want to be there and I have no interest in what you are saying, I’m not going to pay attention.
    How to give a good presentation? Join Toastmasters and learn how.

  8. avatar

    I would say my number one beef is people who; read the power pint, and/or use the power point as their handout. Seriously, I once had an administrator who showed a powerpoint as we followed along on our own copies, and all she did was read the darn thing word for word anyway.

    My number two annoyance is when there is a small project to complete, and the leader says, “Here’s what I want you to do, yada-yada-yada, okay, now go. Oh wait! I forgot to tell you…” Have some pride, show some competence, at least pretend that this isn’t your first time doing this.

    Finally, please email a link if you want me to visit a website. Don’t expect for everyone to be able to see/read the screen, or worse yet listen to you say, “H-tt-p-s colon double back slash… dot u-s slash…”

  9. avatar

    In government circles, we are starting to get away from powerpoint and moving over to Prezi. One meeting I attended the presenter had built the show based on the layout of the town’s google satellite view. The town was tilted at 45 degrees to make it look 3d. He zooms down to the treatment plant and brings up links to the pages about water filtration, security, etc. He repeats it for all town functions. You could probably do it with Powerpoint but Prezi makes it very simple to do. One huge problem with most powerpoints is when the computer cannot process the video link due to mechanical limitations. I’ve seen that a thousand times.

  10. avatar

    Preview the presentation material in the environment it will be used in well before the group arrives. Be sure that your presentation equipment works properly and that it will be brought to life with a single key click. Be sure any image focusing is done in advance. Have a spare projector lamp available. They frequently burn out upon initial startup.

    Speak to the entire group. Do not focus on any individual, even if she/he is the President of the United States. Constantly scan the entire group. They all deserve your attention.

    Don’t read the slide to the group. If they cannot read it for themselves either the type face and graphics are unintelligible or the group cannot read.

    Use the material on the slides as entries to the material you want to present. Publish and offer to forward your speaking notes to the group for them to use as they desire.

    Rehearse and know your material.

    Always keep in mind that you are the most knowledgable person in the room about the subject at hand – that is why you are the presenter.

  11. avatar

    Don’t use your power point slides as handouts. If you do, you will design them with too much content and bore your audience.

  12. avatar

    Using the word “like” all the time

  13. avatar

    Alan, I am not sure what you mean about the title slide reading “1 of 67”–is that a joke to scare the audience or is it real to let them know how many more slides are coming so they can prepare themselves? I’m not clear on that. Thank you.

  14. avatar

    Very good advice. I’d add:

    Don’t obsess over the power point deck.

    Don’t read the slides, this drives people crazy.

    I prefer to go in with a title slide that has a footer “Slide 1 of 67” and a pretty picture for slide 2, and “Thank You” for the ending with my contact information.

  15. avatar

    your self-written acknowledgement is as long as your article….a bit overdone, boring and self-serving.

    Above all, unnecessary.

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