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  • Writer's pictureErin Bailey Lake

The Seven Habits of Highly Annoying Speakers

If you want to:

  • bomb on your next presentation

  • score record lows on audience evaluation forms

  • or possibly lose your lane on the fast track…

…adopt one or more of these seven habits, practiced by ineffective speakers from the boardroom to the inside cubicles.

1. Verbal Crutches. Pepper your presentation with uhm, ah, like, so and awkward silences. If you want to get really good at this, don’t practice your presentation. Convince yourself that “I don’t rehearse well, but I will rise to the occasion at showtime.” Your audience will quickly recognize that you are winging it. 

2. Flailing Hands. Keep your hands moving rapidly and constantly. Spinning motions are especially annoying (like the travelling call in basketball). Your audience will focus on your moving hands rather than your message. Some attendees will get dizzy and may need to be revived during your presentation. Use this break to rest your hands, so that you can move them even faster when you resume.

3. PowerPoint Purgatory. Pack your slide deck with large blocks of text and complex charts and graphs. Read every word of the text and explain each chart in detail. About midway through the presentation, most audience members will experience blurred vision and possibly vertigo. That’s when you tell them: “Stay with me. Only 50 slides to go.”

4. Maternity Walk. Measure an area of about 10 feet and place a chalk mark at each end. As you talk, constantly pace back and forth within this ten-foot area. Early on, the audience will develop neck pain from all the twisting as they watch you walk. At the end, observe whether their necks are locked in the left or right position, and stand where they can see you as you close your presentation.

5. Data Dumping.  If you’re the only person talking, you’re the only person learning. So plan to cover far too much material for the allocated time frame. Don’t give the audience any possible opening to comment or ask a question. Shut down any attempt at interaction by saying: “Hold that thought.” --  or simply by using your right hand as a STOP sign.  

6. Deadly Delivery. Remember to avoid vocal variety. Set your voice to monotone and leave it there. Strenuously avoid eye contact and smiling with teeth. If the audience thinks you are engaged, you run the risk that they may engage, as well. 

7. One-question Q&A. Take 10 minutes to answer the first question. Provide exhaustive detail, extraneous information, and irrelevant data. End by asking: “Does that make sense?” All this will insure that no one will dare ask a second question. 

These Seven Steps have proven time again to quell important initiatives and derail promising careers. Employ one or more in your next presentation, and you’re certain to alienate even the most enthusiastic and engaged audience.  

On the other hand, if you would like to improve or refresh your presentation skills -- and become a more powerful presenter -- that's what we do! Contact us at

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