Top 5 Presentation Peeves

After my recent request for awful presentations, I received the following note from an engineer named Jeff:

Barry, I think you have touched a nerve. I see the first slide in some presentations and want to scream. The things that really grinds my gears are:

1. Text heavy document pasted into slides and read out word for word.

2. Irrelevant Information: ‘You are aware of this already…’ followed by the presenter wasting 2-3 minutes telling us something he has just said we are aware of already.

3. Carelessness and fundamental laziness in regard to images, such as pictures overlaying the backgrounds or being out-of-focus (see below).

4. Bad time keeping: you have your slot, stick to it.

5. Not emphasising the point. If there is one message from a slide, please tell us what it is; we don’t know.

My Top 5 Presentation Peeves

I thought it might be interesting to get other people’s top 5 presentation peeves so, following on from Jeff’s contribution, here, in reverse order, are my own.

5. Posters – Text-filled slides are bad. Text-filled slides the presenter reads out word for word are worse. But worse than this again, for me, are posters. These are slides that contain a little bit of everything: words, graphs, pictures, footnotes, logos, etc

I didn’t make the above slide up, it came from an actual presentation and the speaker used red, green and blue boxes to highlight different items. If you have to ‘police’ the content in your slides this much, chances are you have too much content on those slides.

4. Timekeeping – Lack thereof. Need I elaborate?

3. Arrogance/Complacency – This is often coupled with point 4, above. People think their material is so important or so interesting, or they’re simply enjoying presenting it so much, that they yammer on way past the time limit. The biggest problem most people cite in regard to public speaking is nerves but be advised, the absence of nerves can be a very dangerous thing.

2. Company Presentations – One size never fits all. If you have a stock ‘company presentation’ which you have been instructed to give to clients, my advice would be: don’t give it to clients. Ever. Not only will it be insultingly generic, it will probably have been created-by-committee in a way that captures and controls the company’s message and will almost certainly have poster-slides of the sort I mentioned in peeve 5.

1. Darkness – When someone kills the lights in the room to make that screen really stand out and in doing so renders the speaker (the important bit) invisible. It also means the audience cannot easily take notes which, if the presentation is good, many will wish to do. Maybe I have bad night vision – I remember being in a restaurant in New York, illuminated only by tea lights, where I literally couldn’t see my own dinner – or maybe I have a latent fear of the dark, but this one really drives me nuts. At least when the lights are off, though, you can sneak out.

If you have a top 5 peeves of your own, or even a top 1, I would love to hear it. We can collate an agreed list and lobby presenters with hard evidence of what the customer doesn’t want.

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