9 Things You Should Never Do When Giving a Presentation: AMA Research

Published: Jan 22, 2015
Modified: Jun 03, 2022

BY: AMA STAFF

Think back to your last presentation. Were people interested and engaged in what you were saying? While you may think yourself to be a great speaker, it is not particularly hard to annoy your audience. Recently, AMA ran a survey to see what presentation habits were the most annoying. After 360 responses, the final results have been tabulated. Here is the list of annoying habits in a presentation, from most to least annoying:

  1. Reads the presentation (37%)
  2. Has no knowledge of the subject matter (22%)
  3. Uses too many “umms” and “uhhs” (16%)
  4. Takes too much time (8%)
  5. Speaks in a boring/monotone voice (7%)
  6. Speaks too fast or not loud enough (6%)
  7. Has bad slides (2%)
  8. Uses no visuals (1%)
  9. Doesn't make eye contact (1%)

While these are all problems to avoid, the top three have proven to be the most likely to annoy your audience. They were the only habits to receive more than 15% of the vote, topping the list of things you should never do when giving a presentation. AMA wants to make sure you give the best presentations possible, so here are some tips to help you avoid making these three particularly irritating presentation mistakes.

Annoying presentation habit #1: Reading the presentation

The most annoying presentation habit is also one of the easiest to fall victim to. If you have a visual aid, such as a PowerPoint slideshow, it is often tempting to look back and read what you have already written. However, all this shows is that you can do what your audience can do as well. By reading your slides, you impart no additional information, and therefore give your audience no reason to keep listening once they have finished reading the slide themselves.

One guideline I find especially effective in this situation is to make sure each slide has no more than six bullet points, and no more than six words per bullet point. This prevents you from overloading your slides with information and allows you to elaborate on your main points. When following this in practice, having slides with repetitive layouts and no variation of sentence length or structure becomes very boring. You should have some slides with only pictures and no words, as not only does this keep your audience focused on what you are saying, but it also forces you to truly know what you are presenting. Reading a presentation is a crutch, and one that does not go unnoticed.

Annoying presentation habit #2: No knowledge of the subject matter

Avoiding this annoying habit comes down to one factor: preparation. The more prepared you are, the better you can effectively explain your main points and avoid sounding like you’ve never even heard of your topic before. If giving a great presentation is important to you, do yourself a favor and start preparing for it ahead of time. Throwing together a presentation in a day or two is extremely difficult and leaves you little margin for error, both in terms of correcting any mistakes and practicing beforehand. You could have the next great business idea, but if you cannot effectively communicate it, your audience will not find you to be credible in your area. Your presentation should be on a topic you have prior knowledge of, but in order to show your audience that you know your stuff, coming in prepared will make all the difference.

Annoying presentation habit #3: Using too many “umms” and “uhhs”

If you do not speak eloquently, your presentation sounds unprofessional. The third most annoying habit was using too many “umms” and “uhhs,” which is a symptom of a larger problem of not communicating effectively. This could be a result of stage fright, or perhaps you are coming up with what you say on the go, but more often than not these interjections happen unconsciously. Despite how innocuous they seem, they can ruin your credibility.

One tip for avoiding this annoying habit is to practice your speech or presentation multiple times beforehand, out loud. If you practice giving your speech like you would when it matters, you can hear how you sound and avoid these small yet grating interjections. Practice your presentation in front of a friend or colleague or to yourself in the mirror. If no one can help, record yourself. The more you practice and hear before the big presentation, the more likely you can catch yourself before letting the “umms” and “uhhs” slip out when it matters.