Article Category: Speaker Habits

10 Presentation Bad Habits
My College Students – And You –
Must UN-Learn

College students come into my classroom not only with a flurry of fears and insecurities, but also with baggage in the form of bad presentation habits they have developed over the years.

My students’ bad habits didn’t happen overnight.  These habits develop through years and years of watching terrible presentations.  While most of us can recognize a terrible presentation, we don’t yet have the tools to make our own presentations great.

In a class called Professional Communication and Presentation, I teach my students how to break their bad habits. These lessons apply to all presenters: teachers, conference presenters, business executives… anyone who has a speech to deliver. Read on to see how you can un-learn these habits, too!

1. Turning the lights off during presentations.

The first presentation day in my classroom can be scary.  Students are expected to weave together the material they’ve learned in an engaging, dynamic way, and those public speaking fears often rear their ugly heads at the last second.  Students will sometimes ask right before they start speaking, “Can I turn off the lights?”  This question is often couched in some kind of excuse like, “I really worked hard on my slides, and I want my audience to be able to see them.”  My answer is always, “The lights stay on.

If your audience can’t see you, you won’t be able to connect with them…

Students learn this bad habit by watching their professors lecture with the lights out.  And why wouldn’t they want to do this themselves?  Students feel much more comfortable with the lights off because the audience is looking at the slideshow instead of looking at them presenting.

How to Un-Learn this Habit…

Turning the lights off during presentations is a bad habit that must be broken.  The focus should always be on you as a presenter.  If your audience can’t see you, you won’t be able to connect with them, and you certainly won’t be able to effectively engage them.  Audiences who can’t see you are also less likely to participate and answer questions, and more likely to sit back and disengage as they would in a dark movie theater.  And while slides are important, your slideshow’s job is to support your message as a presenter… not to be center stage.

2. Relying too heavily on one leg of the presentation stool.

Jim Endicott sees presentation as a three-legged stool comprised of the following:

  1. speech content/message;
  2. delivery; and
  3. visual presentation.

Since there are three legs to Endicott’s presentation stool metaphor, my students are plagued by three bad habits.

  • Sometimes, students will put too much focus on content, while ignoring their delivery and visual presentation.
  • Other times, students will spend so much time on their visual presentation that content and delivery fall by the wayside.
  • For a few charismatic folks, delivery is the primary focus, and they don’t develop content or a slideshow because they rely on their wits instead of a message.

Focus on learning the importance of all three legs of the presentation stool, and work on developing a strong presentation that stands equally on all three legs.

All three legs must work together successfully in order for a speech to resonate with audiences.  If a student relies too heavily on one of these legs, their speeches fail to connect.  In my class, we learn to focus on all three, and we constantly develop and improve all areas.

How to Un-Learn this Habit…

You may be a delivery superstar, but relying solely on your dazzling personality to get you through a presentation will make your audience believe you are an unprepared, disorganized mess.  And you can be the most informed person in the world about a particular subject, but if you write out your entire script on your slideshow in bulletpoint format, your audience is going to sleep through your speech.  Focus on learning the importance of all three legs of the presentation stool, and work on developing a strong presentation that stands equally on all three legs.

3. Believing an informative topic will inevitably bore the audience.

Informative speeches are often difficult for my students because they forget the importance of creating engaging speech content.  For example, for one presentation, my students are tasked to watch a TED Talk, and then analyze that talk in 5 minutes by answering 5 questions.  This is often the worst batch of presentations because students forget that informative speeches don’t have to be boring!

Use storytelling, but… make certain all of your stories relate to the central focus of your speech.

We work on storytelling the class before the TED presentations.  As Nancy Duarte tells us, information should always be layered with story, just like layers of a cake.  Students often forget that story is important and stick to matter-of-fact reporting of information.  Benjamin Zander’s On music and passion and Sir Ken Robinson’s Schools kill creativity are two of my favorite TED speeches because both presenters repeatedly weave story into their talks.  By traditional standards, 18 minute talks about classical music and public education would be considered boring, but watch both to see how storytelling works.

How to Un-Learn this Habit…

The most important way to improve your next informative speech is to realize that a good presenter can talk about a ham sandwich and make audiences interested.  To improve informative topics, follow Duarte’s advice.  Use storytelling, but, like Zander and Robinson, make certain all of your stories relate to the central focus of your speech.  You can also incorporate audience participation and interaction into your presentation.  It’s also important that you select an amazing topic that you are energetic and fired up to speak about, as your passion will shine through.

4. Choosing bad topics.

Bad Habit #3 leads directly into the fourth thing my students must un-learn.  Students often select “bad” topics.  Examples of bad topics include tired, overdone subjects such as capital punishment, abortion, fast food, violence in the media, gun rights, etc.  These tend to be bad topics because we’ve been hearing the exact same arguments (for or against) for 20 years, and the presenter rarely offers anything new to the audience.  Thus, the message is boring.  Another example of a bad topic would be a topic the student isn’t personally invested in or connected to.  Passion in delivery can only come through when there is a true connection between the student and the topic.

A student last month ran her persuasive topic by me two weeks before presentation day.  She wanted to discuss the importance of water.  I immediately yawned, but pressed her to find out why she was interested in this topic and how she planned to make it engaging for her audience.  Because of her passion for the topic, and because she weaved in storytelling, the stale topic came alive on presentation day.  She didn’t rely on clichés and instead put personal, authentic experiences into her speech.  Her presentation was one of the best on speech day because she refined her topic from “the importance of clean water” to “how a water purification plant could help Haiti recover from the earthquake and become a first-world nation.”

How to Un-Learn this Habit…

Sometimes, we can’t help it.  We’re assigned a topic to talk about, and we have to make it work.  But if you think you have a bad topic before you start developing a presentation, your audience is in trouble.  If you’re standing in front of a crowd with slumped shoulders and defeated nonverbal communication, your audience will mirror back that negative attitude.  Don’t choose a bad topic, and don’t let a bad topic defeat you!  Instead, use storytelling… and sprinkle in a little humor.

A Pew Research Center study revealed that Daily Show and Colbert Report viewers are the most informed and have the highest knowledge of both national and international affairs.  Nothing can be as dry and boring as the news!  Remember that humor helps audiences retain information, and funny stories are a great way for people to retain the information you’re communicating with them.

5. Writing and then reading a script.

Delivery should be as natural as possible.  Why, then, do my students write out an entire script and read that script for their presentation?  Consider why TED Commandment #9 exists: “Thou shalt not read thy speech.”  Ironically, last month, a student wrote a script and read it from start to finish for his TED analysis speech.  This student explained to us that one great thing his TED presenter did was follow TED Commandment #9.  My jaw actually dropped when the student read the following lines: “My TED presenter didn’t read his speech, and Commandment #9 is a really important lesson to learn.  When you read your speech, you bore your audience.

Reading a script from start to finish makes an audience feel cheated.

This lesson is important for more than just my students.  I am confronted with presenters reading a script even in professional venues.  For example, in February of 2012, I was excited to attend a PechaKucha night in my hometown. Unfortunately, I was let down when one third of the presenters looked down at a script and read their presentations from start to finish.

How to Un-Learn this Habit…

Remember that overly slick, forced, or artificial presenters fall flat for audiences.  Reading a script from start to finish makes an audience feel cheated.  The best way to plan for a speech is to use an outline.  Your outline will include main points to keep you on track, but this outline will allow you to speak naturally and from the heart.  Still nervous that you might forget something?  Practice!  The only way to remember your information is to practice your speech until you know it well.

Keep reading for the next five habits…

Read onward to discover habits six through ten in the conclusion.

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Comments icon97 Comments

  1. Great advice Alex. Something else that could be added about “Turning Off The Lights” as it could also encourage a bit of nodding off to happen.

  2. Great post. It has been many years since I taught, but the bad topic point really brought back the memories! My beef was more with persuasive speeches than informative speeches. I had to outright ban speeches on smoking being bad for you and drunk driving is wrong. Most people know this as fact, but that’s not why they do a behavior. As you mentioned the arguments were ALWAYS the same. If I had two of those speeches on the same day, it was sleepy time for my class!

  3. Dilip Patil says:

    Great advice sir, all the points mentioned are notable and memorable and helpful to become a good and successful Presenter.Thanks a lot.

  4. William Zach Roberts says:

    First of all, i am a student in CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

    After reading the first half of this article I would have to agree 100% with the 5th habit… I to have seen many presentations fall short for audiences because the presenter simply read from a script. Just sitting there and reading your speech does a lot of things to kill the level of engagement in your audience, if you are reading verbatim from a script you lack eye contact, or at least consistent eye contact, and the audience will feel like they do not matter and you could be reading the speech to the wall for all you care. This also limits you to the podium, because if you are legitimately reading straight from a script, you have to have it right there all the time in order to keep reading, and if you stay in just one spot, you lose the opportunity to further engage the audience through utilizing three dimensional space, the more active and energetic you are, the more engaged the audience will be, the more they will care about what you have to say.

    I feel that if you practice a speech enough and know the material and topic well enough, you should be able to, no problem, use the speech as a guide line and simply elaborate on your topic in a direction that is similar to what you had written.

    as long as you know what you are talking about, effective presentation should be no problem.

    thanks for the great article,

    William Zach Roberts

  5. Nicholas Tolisano (student) says:

    Student at NVCC.
    Good post; it is all valuable information. All the habits are good to know and use during a speech.

  6. Isis Solorzano says:

    This is a great article!.I agree that the best way to plan for a speech is to use an outline. I believe it’s very helpful. I’m a student in CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

  7. Ilona Venhoda says:

    Hi, I am a student at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Public Speaking CST 100-02

    I agree practice, practice and more practice is the key for delivering a good speech. As more you practice your speech, the more confident you get and as long as you follow certain “rules” like avoid the habits above, you will become a good public speaker.

  8. Anna Charmsaz says:

    I am a student in CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I agree about all you said and you mentioned good points. In #3 I liked when you said try to tell a story but not boring and related to the topic. Actually, this is easier for me to tell a story in my speech as an example or a quick experience of myself. When my speech is all written sentences, I feel like I have to remember all those words like an essay and sometimes I may even forget the order, but giving myself some time to focus and talk about my story a little bit gives me a space to wrap everything nicely.

  9. Adams Miranda says:

    Im a student CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I thought this article perfectly points out the classic no no’s in presentation. I have seen many examples of #2 in this article where people relied on only one thing which was either visual presentations or facts and statistics. some presenters even showed a video from a website that basically did the whole presentation for her. Others only read off their outlines but didn’t support it with examples and stories.

  10. Jenny k says:

    I am a Student at CST 100-02. I think number five is the topic habit that I need to break. When I know I have a presentation, I will make notecards or even write every little thing that I want to say. Recently in class, we had a vocare speech and we had to present what was our professional and career goal. I wrote down I wanted to say, as I got to the front I quickly looked over the notes and made a mental outline. Don’t get me wrong I had to look a couple of times but I think if I was more confident in myself I wouldn’t have to look at my notes or outlines.

  11. Shanice says:

    I am a student in CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I did a Vocare speech just last Tuesday and I was scared out of my mind, I was wishing i could read my speech instead but now i see what number 5 is talking about. How can a person connect if there reading (probally in monotone) the whole time. Not good!!

  12. Debora Loppies says:

    Hi! I am one of CST 100-02 students at NOVA Annandale campus.

    It is kind of hard to break those habits especial bad habit no.4. So many times that I have too large or common topic that becomes so boring. Thank you,this article is very helpful and absolutely gives me better ideas for my next presentations.

  13. Jake Ruefer says:

    Hi my name is Jake Ruefer and I am a student in CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. This is a great list of different struggles that everyone deals with but I would say I struggle most with #3. When I am assigned a speech that does not excite me very much it is very easy to let that dictate my speech. I need to add interesting facts and stories to my speech to help it become more interesting and engaging.

    I also like how throughout these ten habits you remind students to remain natural and true to themselves and their natural persona. That is is always helpful to remember.

    Thanks for the list!

  14. Jhabiz Nourmohammadi says:

    I enjoyed reading these tips. I personally think that using a story relevant to the topic can always help keep the audience interested and the speech memorable!
    I also think that use of ouline for speech is very helpful, since it helps the speaker to keep eye contact with the audience while backing up the presentation incase he/she forgot any part of the speech.
    Student in CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College

  15. Linda Supo says:

    My name is Linda and I am a student at CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

    I agree with everything this article said and I especially agree with bad habit number 3. I have chosen many bad topics in my life to do a speech on. I always thought since I know a lot about the topic the speech would be good but in the end I was wrong.

  16. Robert Willis says:

    great tips as a student at northern va community college and in cst 100-02 at the annandale campus i must say these tips will help as my guide to improve public speaking

  17. Marcelo Beltran says:

    Student in CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I think that the 8 point is very important, many people give apology to there audience but it is not good to do because gives a negative and different impression.

  18. Ranjit Singh says:

    I am a student form Northern Virginia Community College CST 100-036N. This is a great article which not only describes bad habits during speech presentation but also inform us about how to avoid those bad habits. I really like #2 because I was not aware of that a complete presentation consists of three important parts. I usually focus on content during presentation leaving aside delivery of speech and visual presentation. This is an eye-opener to me. #1 is also a great point because all the presentations that I have seen so far in other classes are presented in dark.

  19. Michael Frigiola says:

    I am a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.
    I found tip #5 to be the most interesting and unexpected. Thinking that the more time you spend refining your speech would undoubtedly make it better but that may not be the case if you go about it the wrong way. A speech or presentation is not the same as an essay and need life in it, improvisation may be the best thing to make a speech have that electricity.

  20. Nathan Schell says:

    Good evening. I am a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

    #5 Reading from a Script
    Ironically, I delivered my latest speech from a written copy in order to avoid #9 (Believing a good speaker never says ‘um’). I think I did rather well, but if I did it was because of my writing, not my presentation. Looking back, note cards with bullets would have suited the type of speech I was giving better than written copy. Even so, I was careful to not dwell on the text and remembered to look up and engage my audience. As if to bring my mistake full circle, as I result of looking up and engaging, I was slightly lost when I looked back down to see the next paragraph. Water over the bridge, under the dam, however it goes, I now know a little of how to improve my presentation next time. Thanks for this article, it was great!

  21. Tony Amaniampong says:

    CST 100
    I believe this article hit on a lot of key points that are critical to any presentation or speech.

  22. Tony Amaniampong says:

    Also i meant to sayy its CST 100- 36

  23. David Allison says:

    Hi im a student in CST-100 at Nova in Annandale.
    I agree with the author a lot of the skills are brought with us to college classes. We are tought in writing to have a intro, three middles, and an end and thats how we give speeches. When we should outline and that would help us present it better. Also if we have a bad topic that dosnt intrest us how can we present it to others?

  24. Joseph Vorachack says:

    Hi! I’m a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I like this post a lot. Practicing will get you better and will get you far. Also, you will never get better at something at your first try. You got to keep doing and learn from your mistake. Practices what will make you perfect and following these step from this article will help you do that. It will be hard at first but perfection takes time.

    I agree with point number 2. I always work really hard on one part but don’t do much on the other. That’s where I fail when it comes to presentations. Having all those 3 points will make your presentation better and will get you far. Depending on one isn’t the way to go. I learned that the hard way. I just need to learn and keep practicing to make me a better speaker and this article will help me do so.

  25. Baha'a Bassil says:

    My name is Baha’a Bassil and I am a student of CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Reading this article I was shocked to see the habits that I can compare to. I never had trouble with speeches if I prepared for it. Though it is true you can never wing a speech. You will look at the crowds reactions as you are speaking and if one person reacts differently it will throw you off. I am speaking from experience, it will get you to think maybe your speech is not interesting enough for people to hear and then you start saying the words “um, uh, so…” which happened to me recently. You have to give the people something they’ve never seen. #5 is absolutely right, the audience feels cheated, it is so plain reading from a script rather than saying it from your mind while your hands are moving and that leads to the audience feeling what you are saying and if your speech is good enough it will lead to them feeling what you feel.

  26. Andrea Suarez says:

    Hi, I am a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. My favorite point in the article was number 2: relying too heavily on one leg of the presentation stool. I think it is important to keep in mind the balance of the content, delivery, and visual aids to convey a lasting message. You can have a great presentation prepared, but if the factors listed above are not in harmony, the purpose of your speech will be lost. Thank you for the tips. These are very helpful.

  27. Stella Min says:

    Hello, I’m a student of NOVA CST100-36N class. As I read this first half of this article, I think this article is very helpful to all students. I agree with the habit #2, which is Relying too heavily on one leg of the presentation stool. I also believe that presenter has to focus on three contents evenly. we have to make sure we balance out the contents to make our presentation better. thank you for your helpful article.

  28. Thao Bui says:

    Hi, I’m Thao from CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Among all those ten bad presentation habits that the college students usually make, I personally agree with the #5 habit. Writing and then reading a script in front of the audience is absolutely not a good choice when anyone wants to deliver a speech or a presentation. The most important thing, according to me, is the eye contact with the audience. Interacting with the audience via gestures, eye contact, as well as a sufficient tone when presenting a project or a speech would make a presentation be more lively and interesting.
    Thank you for those good tips.

  29. Hanna Anbesse says:

    Hi, I’m a student in CST 100-36 I like what was said in #3 about telling a story to grab the audiences attention so they don’t get easily bored.

  30. My name is Darian Newsome and I am a student in CST 100-036 at the NOVA Annandale campus. While reading this article I must admit that I am guilty of many of these bad habits. Any presentation that I have given has always made me extremely nervous about actually speaking, so I would just beef up my PowerPoint so that no one would hear my voice shaking. In my opinion I believe that #2 is the most important because without a balance of visuals, confidence, and information a speech can turn quite ugly. I also believe that #9 is also something that I have had problems with in the past. Normally I will make a conscious effort to not say “um” whenever I am presenting, however whenever I do catch myself saying it I get distracted from my speech and in the long run it costs me a lot of points. Overall I think these habits are extremely true and that a lot of people have them. Luckily this article was made to show us all how not to present and I will try to remember all of them.

  31. Rachel Shubin says:

    Hi I am from NOVA CST100-36N. I completely agree with #5. “Writing and then reading a script.
    Delivery should be as natural as possible. When you read your speech, you bore your audience.”

    It is really hard to give a speech, especially if you get nervous before. If you get nervous, it is easy to forget what you’re going to say. I find it best to write down what I’m going to say, and try not to read too much from it. Sometimes I like to highlight the statements that I want to make sure I say for sure, that way even if I am trying to do it by memory, I’ll still remember a few important facts.

  32. Stacey says:

    Hi! When I give presentations, the people who assess me tell me that I’m too casual..but when I ask my classmates about it, they say its good that I am casual, since they feel I’m talking to them and I don’t send them to sleep…Are presentations supposed to be a formal thing?How do I get serious?
    Btw..the topic I gave the seminar on was purely technical…

  33. Phuc Truong says:

    Hello, I am a student form Northern Virginia Community College CST 100-036N. I think the #5 habit happens very often for presenters. Because of the nervous and the stress, many people cannot avoid that habit. Also, they try to avoid making eye-contact with the audience, and all they want is finish their speeches as soon as possible by read their speeches quickly. Well, that is bad since making eye contact since the goal is deliver our speeches efficiently to the audience not to ourselves.

  34. Nhat Doan says:

    CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College

    I always prefer the light to be off so that way I dont see the audience that much and don’t get nervous. Well, now, I know it is not good, so I’m got to unlearn this asap.

  35. Alex Fishkin says:

    I am a student at NOVA’s annandale campus for CST 100
    Professor Tirpak is my professor, and he knows me (I forget the section, so this’ll have to do).
    Number 4 is a problem I’m worried about having, because I like choosing topics that interest me, not thinking much about whether my audience will relate at all. Once I choose my topic, I figure out how I can make it relate, but the topic itself stays distant. It hasn’t happened yet, but that’s what I’m worried about happening.

  36. Julianne says:

    Through all my years in school and teaching I have never seen someone turn off the lights. That to me just seems very weird or maybe I just never noticed it. Either way I agree with Joesph that this would definitely encourage some nodding off.

    Great post Alex!

  37. Denise Viricochea says:

    hello, i am a NOVA-Annandale student in CST100-37!
    My favorite point in the article was point 3. Believing an informative topic will inevitably bore the audience. I get that this true but sometimes i fear that if i get handed a certain topic then i wont be able to relate to it and end up just listing a bunch of facts. Maybe i will have to many facts that relates to only one side of the the topic and leave people with only half of there questions answered.But the story telling technique makes a lot more sense so thank you and i will try to use it!

  38. Christian Portocarrero says:

    This article is very helpful. I am a student at NOVA going to the Annandale Campus and Im taking CST 100-37. For every point that you have given I can recall a time that I have done it. When I read point 4 and 5 it reminded me of a speech I gave about evolution. It was a bad topic to chose and on presentation day I ended up reading my entire speech of the paper I had written. Thank you for the helpful advise an I’ll make sure I use this article as a guideline to follow for my oncoming speeches.

  39. Duyen Nguyen says:

    I am a student in CST 100-37 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. The author makes many great points to help us with our presentation skills. Tip #5, Reading from a Script, is a great tip for me. I have to agree that reading from a script is not a good way of delivering a speech. I can relate it with many of my speeches that I made in the past. I can feel it is not as effective because my audience may not read or feel my emotion as well as my thoughts as I was reading from a script. I can feel that reading from script can make your speech very unnatural or artificial which the author also pointed out that “it makes an audience feel cheated”. It is a good lesson for me to remember that I have to practice and practice more so I can speak from an outline instead from reading a script.

  40. Ahmad Wali Azizyar says:

    I am a student in CST 100-37 at Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Campus. I agree with Habit #1 because I have been to that situation many times. For me I feel comfortable turning the lights off and lecturing to the audiences over the slides. However, it is helpful for me, but it might bored the audiences because I am not physically involved in the presentation using my body language. Now I must eliminate such a poor habit in my future presentations.

  41. Ethan Reish says:

    Hey guys, Im from CST-100 at Nova community college and I believe my problem lies with number 5. I remember showing up to my class with everything I thought I needed to say and it was in order. Once I began I started off ok but as I continued I kept losing track of where I was. This is a habit I must break!!!

  42. Endzo Ventura says:

    5. Writing then reading the script

    I feel that this habit may be the worst of them all. By reading word for word of a script no only bores the audience but it sounds very choppy and unprofessional. Creating an outline is a great way to cut this bad habit simply because it will only give you key points that should be more than enough to get the ball rolling during your presentation.

    -Student in CST 100 (037N) Principles of Public Speaking at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

  43. This article makes you learn a lot, and allows you to learn all the bad habits. Honestly, i believe all this is good,but it’s all about self confidence and what you believe in.

  44. jeysabeth gonzalez says:

    CST 100-37 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College

    In my opinion, number #4 choosing bad topics, is one of the hardest habits to break as a college student. However, Rister does a great at explaining this bad habit and how to break it. In the rare moments that students get to choose their topics often times we get so lost and confused on what to pick that we end up going for the easiest topic and most of the time those topics tend to be very dry and boring. I completely agree with Rister on the fact that we should pick topics that excite us and that we’re passionate about because when you pick something you actually like it becomes a lot easier to present. Also picking topics that we genuinely enjoy discussing make it that much easier to add stories and show more of our personality and basically make all the other bad habit easier to break.

  45. Steven Do says:

    I’m a student in CST 100-37 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I find this article is very helpful for any English writers and speakers. I definitely agree that practicing is an important key for every speakers. Therefore, speakers are well self-prepared and confident before doing any speeches.

  46. Tugsuu Bolookhuu says:

    Hi, I am a student at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Public Speaking CST 100-02

    I agree practice, practice and more practice is the key for delivering a good speech. Practice makes perfect.I agree with everything this article said and I especially agree with bad habit number 2

  47. Brandon Berling says:

    Brandon Berling

    I am a student in CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I completly agree with all of your points proven, especially #5. I can’t stand when people write a speech and then read it word for word without making enough eye contact. All very good and informative points

  48. Danyal Babar says:

    I am a student in CST 100-37 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I think number 5 is the one I need to work on. I need be more natural rather than just more oriented on whats in front of me. Rather than writing a lot just write one word to remember what I wish to talk about. I think that will have to come with more practice and time going to practicing the speech itself.

  49. Matthew Delage says:

    I am a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I could not just choose one point from this article to talk about. To me, I think that point 4 and 5 are both excellent and can make or break a speech. Point 4, the overdone and used way too many time speeches are incredibly boring and a student or a speaker can easily copy a speech from someone else and call it their work since it all will basically sound the same. Also, the audience will be disengaged and have the mindset of hearing the same thing just a different speaker. Point 5, if a speaker is just staring down at their speech the entire time it disengages themselves from the audience. And it will become incredibly boring and the audience will start to think that the speaker does not care. Also, it becomes difficult to hear and understand a speaker that keeps looking down the entire time no matter how well a speaker may be able to project his or her voice.

  50. Renee Durieux says:

    Hello, I’m a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). The point that stands out to me the most is the one about turning out the lights. It is a tool many people use for security and is therefore very hard to unlearn. Personally I also feel like it can be hard to understand that people would want to see me instead of the power point (very clearly). I never gave much thought to this habit but now I’m realizing that it really limits the much needed connection with the audience. Great points!

  51. Abel Cornejo says:

    This is a student from CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College, I agree with this article, it tells almost all presentation habits a student usually has in a speech, the most important one has to be in my opinion the choosing bad topics, if one is not confident or interested in their topic then things will just not go right, we always need a topic that we can teach to anyone and will even remember for a long time.

  52. jhon vallejos says:

    Nvcc CST-100(036N)

    Great article. I learned new ways to give a better speech. I was kind of surprise with the last point but I learned that the speech its always better if you practice. It will be useful for cst class.

  53. Xi Chen says:

    Hi, I am a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.
    In my opinion, the #4 is a hard point for me. The reason is sometime the foreigner do not know which topic is bad. I think a good speaker can say any topic, they can make bore topic to become more interesting to audience.
    Also, I agree with on # 5 do not writing and then reading a script. If people write on the script, they always want to read it. However,the good way is that don not write it. Speaker need to practice speech in their maind.

  54. Ashley Ramirez says:

    I am a student at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College and I’m taking CST 100-36. I think this article was very helpful. It helped give me tips on how to work on changing my bad habits when delivering a speech. The one that stood out the most to me was number 4 Choosing Bad Topics. This one showed how people sometimes would present on topics they had no interest in. This is true for some people if you have no interest in it why bother, your just going to bore your audience. But by changing this you could decide to pick a topic you are passionate about. The article said you could do this by storytelling or by adding some humor. I think this would make anyone’s speech come more alive and the audience would be more entertained rather than bored.

  55. Kyungwon Kim says:

    Hi, I am a student at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Public Speaking CST 100-36.

    I totally agree with this posted article. I also think that eye contact is important thing to connect with your audience. If you connect them, you can easily use storytelling.
    A Good speech is from good preparing and habit as usual.

  56. Amreen says:

    I completely agree with the first bad habit. Personally, I find it much easier to present a slideshow with the lights off so the focus isn’t on me. It makes it easier for me because that way I don’t have to focus on how I’m delivering the presentation but how interested the audience is in my slides. That kind of goes hand in hand with bad habit number 4; it’s almost impossible to avoid choosing a topic so used as mentioned. It’s harder to find a topic you can captivate your audience with.

    I’m a student in Northern Virginia Community College Communications 100-36

  57. Joseph Nolan says:

    Hi I’m in a communications class at NOVA Annandale Campus. CST-100-36 I use to believe that turning off the lights would help a presentation. This is a strategy that I used when I was not as confident in my public speaking. Hiding in the shadows for my powerpoint. I use to get really nervous when people were looking at me. Turning off the light made it so that I could not see the people who were looking at me. Since then I prefer to be the spot light and gotten over my fear of being seen.

  58. Hwanung Choi says:

    HI I’m one of students in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. This is amazing post for everyone who takes presentation! all bad habits can be occurred in any time unconsciously. It is also very hard to quit like smoking. however, we can come over all of this problem as this post says up there! just in my opinion, we need more time and practice. I know the truth that anyone cannot be perfect. we are human so we should make some mistakes in presentation, but we can learn how to solve those problems and give efforts to complete wonderful presentation. Those 5 bad habits that usually we have and really bother us.

  59. Tyler Jones says:

    First off, I am a student in Professor Tirpak’s CST 100-036N Public speaking class.

    To me, the most important point in this article was #2. Although you may have two phenomenal aspects of a speech, your speech is going to be as strong as its weakest aspect. Failure to prepare in any of these three categories will ultimately lead you into giving a bad speech. A speech does not incorporate these three factors independently, but rather uses each to really build the others. And as such, if any of them are missing, effectively communicating a point is out of the question.

  60. Cameron Bias says:

    I am a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community college. I completely agree with number 3, I always struggled with the feel that everyone was bored during my heavily informative presentations coming up in school. I would do my best to liven them up but to no avail I felt. It wasn’t until I learned the skill of engaging my audience that I could make my presentations relevant to my audience. if I had read this back then who knows where I’d be now!

  61. Madison Suh says:

    I am a student in CST 100-36 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Speaking from personal experience, I believe that many people fall victim to bad habit #5. Reading a speech verbatim from a piece of paper seems helpful during practices; however, nerve tends to trip people up during their “real” presentations. This article provided much clarity in regards to improving the quality of public speeches. Thank you for the insight.

  62. Hyunmo Ahn says:

    Hi. I am a student in CST 100-37 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I totally agree with No. 3: Believing an informative topic will inevitably bore the audience. Not an informative topic but the way you talk could be boring. If you start with something that hook the audience’s attention, it will make your speech different. It is up to you. Like what the author suggest, storytelling is one of the most effective ways to make audience interesting.

  63. Jamie Rhim says:

    Hello. I am a student in CST 100-37 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. It would be better I read this article before my three to five minutes speech which was few weeks ago. If I read it, I would fix my bad habits and do better presentation. I think I see the paper alot during the presentation like number 5. Now, I learned how to fix my bad habits and I will try it on mext presentation.

  64. Cristian Escobar says:

    HEllo, Im a student from CST 100-02 st the Annandale Campus of Nova.
    After reading this article i completely agree with #5 and # 1. I know i have done #1 alot of times because my teachers, in a way, encourage me to do it so everyone could see my powerpoints. With the occasion of doing #1 it led me to read everything off the powerpoints as a script. I get nervous and tense up what to say and i would just read off the slides. I know im not the only one because i have seen professional people give speeches and they’re saying everything they wrote. It loses connections with the audience cause your not giving eye-contact which is like the most important. I also know from reading this that there are other ways that can kill yuor speech and/or help make it better. This article is very helpful and i will be coming back on this for more tips.

  65. Michelle says:

    So true about the turning off lights thing–I wonder why that is such an ingrained instinct? I’ll have to remember to forbid this too the next time my students try it!

  66. Sumaiya K Emran says:

    My name is sumaiya and I’m a college student at NOVA annandale campus and in CST 110-17. I have many of the bad habits listed above, but i think the storytelling tip is a very good way to get comfortable with and also engage your audience in your presentation.

  67. Sumaiya K Emran says:

    Hi, I am in CST 110-17 at NOVA annandale campus and i believe that this article hit a lot of key points and hope to use the story telling method in my soon to come speeches.

  68. Sepehr Bazrafshan says:

    I am a student in CST 110-17 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. First of all, thank you for pointing out these tips. I personally have seen some presentation; which people got bored, or sleepy because the presenter was just reading from his/her notes. I think it is possible to overcome these bad habits by keep NOT doing them. My favorite point was number two; which mentioned how relying on side of the legged stool can keep us distracted from facing others. I think each factor has his own importance on the legged stool presentation. In addition, we are able to represent a great speech by keeping all three elements such as: the speech message,delivery the point and visualizes the speech. thank you again for your great points.

    1. Sepehr Bazrafshan says:

      Hi i’m one of students from a CST 110-17 class at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. I agree with the first point i think although it’s hard to represent on a lights on room despite of full attention; it can be accomplish.

  69. Otilia Lampman says:

    Hello, I’m Otilia and I take Intro to Communications with Prof. Tirpak (CST 110 – 017N at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College. The one habit that I identified with relying on one leg of the presentation stool. I either Focus on the content too much or the visuals of my presentation. For a content I want to make sure that whatever I researched gets into my speech and that the audience knows about it. I have concentrate too much on the visuals, Buddy either trying to fit too many pictures on the slide or bullet pointing my speech on slides. I believe the way I can combat this is by forgoing the visuals and creating a speech within my time limit. Also I would practice to make sure that my content relates to this speech and doesn’t go over the time limit.

  70. Jeydi Erazo says:

    I am a student in CST 110-17 at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College.
    After reading the first part of the article I have to admit that one of the bad habits that I’ve had to deal with is to choose a topic that I am actually interested in (habit 4). One time in my English class I had to do a presentation and I chose to do it on gun right and I wasn’t even interested in the topic I just thought it would be an easy topic because you would hear about it all the time on the News but it turned out that since I wasn’t very interested in the topic I wasn’t able to get invested enough and I just made really common arguments and so my speech wasn’t very engaging. I have to get through this because I want to be able to make good arguments and bring something new to the table.

  71. Andrew Poore says:

    I am a student in the CST 110-17 class at Northern Virginia Community College Annandale.

    I can definitely relate to the “reading a script” point of this article. Mind you, this isn’t because I don’t want to look at the audience and would rather be staring down at my script the entire time to make myself more comfortable. Whenever I write out a script to read from, its usually because I fear I will forget something during my speech, like an important detail, or even a main idea. I’ve done it in the past when I didn’t write a script.

    However, having learned from past mistakes, I believe the simple solution to my problems are to practice and prepare more, and not just by myself. I need to rehearse me speech and make myself ready in every aspect, in front of others, especially if I get the chance to do it in front of the same people I will be speaking in front of in class, beforehand.

  72. Jacklyn Jang says:

    Hello. I am a student in CST 110-17 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

    After reading top 5 topics, I agree with the 3rd habit of thinking too much information can bored the audiences. When I was a freshman in high school, I had to do a presentation for my English class. The topic was on any foreign country I would like to visit, which I picked South Korea as my topic. Since I was bored and raised until I was 9 in South Korea, I had so many details to include in my presentation. Due to my lack of skills in organizing and displaying my work, I made a long and boring 15 minute speech. Because of my experience, which I thought was very embarrassing, I decided not to include too much information and ended up doing only 2 to 3 minutes long talks. I need to overcome this habit, so that I could present myself as a well known person on my topic whenever I have to do a presentation for class or even describe a certain topic to someone.

    I agree with all 5 habits and that as long as you keep them in your mind, you will be a very effective speaker.
    Thank you for the article Alex Rister.

  73. Ronald Vergel de Dios says:

    Student from CST 110-17 NVCC Annandale Campus.
    In the past I have had trouble preparing for an oral presentation and that’s why I chose number five to work on. I have confidence that with enough practice and knowing my topic cold will allow to flow more freely and keep my audiences attention. It’ll be hard to overcome, but nothing is impossible.

  74. Keanu Greene-Perez says:

    Hi I am a student in CST 110-17 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. While reading these bad habits the one that stood out to me the most was choosing bad topics, i struggle a lot when it comes to presentations because i am not very good at picking good subjects to talk about and i always end up picking something that is always picked and i feel like that probably bores the audience. Another one that i struggle with is that i read my speech like a script and this article really points out how to fix this because it has a negative effect on the audience, and i want to make my speech sound as natural as possible.

  75. Josh G. says:

    I think encouraging students to weave stories into their speeches could have polarized effects. What I’m trying to say when I wrote polarized is that when a student attempts to weave stories into their speech the effectiveness of doing this is extremely relative to who is giving the speech. All in all the idea of adding personal anecdotes to a presentation is a great idea, but I think it’s success can vary greatly too. I also agree that picking a poor subject can ultimately doom a paper before it’s even written. In terms of overdone topics I think avoiding them is a horrible idea. It would be like saying we’ve been using pencils to only write and draw for decades therefore new there’s no use for them anymore. Just because the subject may be repetitive to people doesn’t make it any less important.

  76. John Lorence says:

    I am John Lorence, a student at taking CST 110-17 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College and I can relate to problem #5, Writing then Reading a Script. I like having something written out in order to read it to others because I know the information is there, I know what has to be said. Trying to do it by memorizing makes me feel uneasy because I don’t want to forget anything. I remember giving a presentation and forgot a few things because I wasn’t allowed to look at the paper and having to memorize everything in it made me forget things. But after reading this article I realized I don’t really have to remember everything. I Can write little notes in order to remember topics that I might forget. It was a helpful article and I feel like I can benefit myself even more now because of it.

  77. Addison Burgess says:

    I am a student in CST 110-17 at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College

    After reading the “Ten Presentation Bad Habits,” I can honestly say number five is me all the way.”Writing and then reading a script” I have had class presentations in high school where I would write a paper and never look at the audience and read it word for word. It is a bad habit because like the article said you are cheating yourself. Practicing your presentations ahead of time is the best way to become a better speaker and making notes for yourself rather than looking at a seven page paper. I believe if I do that I will be successful and get over my bad habit.

  78. Vaughn Rollamas says:

    Hello, my name is Vaughn Rollamas and I am a student at NOVA Annandale taking CST-110(17N). I believe that #2 and #5 relate with me the most. For #2, I do tend to try to become more informed and focus more on context rather than trying to develop my delivery and visual presentation. With the combination of #5, which is writing the script and reading it out loud, has caused me to gain these bad habits. In order for me to overcome these habits, I believe that we need to just practice with repetition, and needs to be fixed in order to be prepared in future speech assignments at academic schools.

  79. Edgardo Meza says:

    Hey, I am a student in CST 110-17 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.
    In the past, I’ve had quite the difficulty with the boring topic aspect of giving a speech. Back in high school the teachers would give us random yet boring topics that none of our classmates would care about to present in a speech in front of them. To this day even if i find a topic that may apply to my likeness, it may not always apply to everyone else’s and i have to practice and improve this bad habit of just throwing information at my audience and expect them to take it all in and enjoy it. I need to be able to make it more interesting and more so that the audience can actively respond to me. This article really helped me and i will try my best to completely overcome this bad habit.

  80. Tatyana Garrett says:

    I’m a student in a CST 110-17 class at NOVA Annandale Campus. My worst habit would be number 5, writing then reading a script. When i get up to talk i get nervous and forget everything. The only thing i can remember is what is right in front of me on the paper. I think if i come well prepared and not get scared that everyone is looking at me i will be able to give a better presentation.

  81. Michael Agyeman says:

    Michael Agyeman CST 110

    Looking at this article, the one that pops out the most to me is question 3 because sometimes there are some topics that can get very boring. I’ve learned that it’s possible to make a topic sound more interesting by story telling.

  82. Lorenzo Aluning says:

    CST 110-17 class at NOVA Annandale Campus

    As I read this article, all the advices will help me give a better speech. But I agree with number 5 that it is hard to talk to people without reading off a script. The way to not do that is to not be nervous and write stuff in a notecard and keep looking once in a while, but not all the time. Also if you have the time you can rehearse and you can probably memorize your speech in your head.

  83. Ana Azucar says:

    Hi! I’m a student in CST 110-17 at Northern Virginia Community College at Annandale Campus. After reading the article I would have to admit that I’ve done some of these bad habits. Usually or should I say most of the time when it’s time for me to do a presentations, I simply read off a sheet of paper and that causes my audience to fail to reach the target that I’m aiming for. From the lack of eye contact that I make with my audience, it might make them believe that I’m just not into it and reading it off just makes it obligated. But with eye contact, I can connect with my audience and explain them my beliefs, opinion, etc. I feel that when it comes to the day of the presentation, just review if you have mentioned everything needed of the main idea of the subject on notecards like key points and with the practices, there should be no problem to go out there.

  84. Zari Malik says:

    My name is Zari Malik and I am a student in CST 110-17 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. For me personally the bad habit I personally struggle with while delivering a speech is reading from my notecard or page I have printed off. I remember having to deliver a speech for my student council president speech in the 9th grade at a totally new school and I can recall how absolutely terrified I was and since I had written it all down word for word I read directly from it and my voice ended up sounding so monotone and boring. It’s probably one of the most boring speeches I have ever given. Since then I have learnt from mistake and have tried my hardest to only write in bullet form on my outline so that I can speak more freely and from the heart and mind rather than reading from a script like a robot. It’s something I need to overcome because I want to become and more gifted speech giver and one day as I pursue my career in law I am going to constantly have to get up and deliver speeches on the daily and if I can overcome this bad habit of mine and move forward I really think that I will be able to succeed.

  85. Sumin Kim says:

    Sumin Kim

    As I read this article, I am now able to avoid the problem I had had which is #5. I always feel nervous when I do presentations, so I nomarlly write and read in presentations without making any eye contact with audience.
    It will cause audience feel bored and not focusing on the presentation. Therefore delivering messages should be natural as making eye contact and confidenc about speaking. In my opinion, to have audiences` attention will either be difficult or easy depends on my attitude in the presentation. Thus, I think I need to make an effort to prepare for the next presentation. In order for me to overcome these habits, I believe that I need to practice with repetition in front of friends and asking for judge how it is.

  86. Michelle Terrazas says:

    Hello, I am a student at NVCC and am currently enrolled in CST 110-17.
    In this article i connected most with point 5. I think my biggest issue is similar to reading off the script as where i tend to jump from bullet to bullet not in any particular order. I do this because I will often forget some intresting or important information and want to share it but at that point it is randomly put into my presentation. I think that it is crucial to overcome this because when you present you want to make sure your audience is on track and understanding what you are trying to share with them. Because why even present if nobody even understands what’s going on.

  87. Joshua Chen-Asifuina says:

    Student of Professor Tirpak’s CST 110-17 class here,

    I feel as if point #2 (Relying too heavily on one leg of the presentation stool) was directly towards me. I usually focus too much on visualization rather than delivering a speech. Another problem I had with more focused part of the visualization, was that I spent way too much time on making the visual look perfect. Understanding what the three-legged stool is, and how to mix it together instead of a one-legged stool, could very much improve a bad presentation habit.

    Thank you very much for the advice, Alex, and for this article

  88. Rebecca Fulop says:

    I am a student in CST 110-17 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.
    In my past experiences of having to write presentation, I always write the speech out word by word and read off it. It makes me more comfortable when I have every word in front of me, however it makes my speech sound almost computerized and unnatural. I need to knock this habit off so my presentation sounds more fluid.

  89. Brad Gehr says:

    Student of Professor Tirpak’s CST 110-17 class here,
    This is a great article for anyone that has to prepare to get a speech. It is short and concise but has great applicable information. To me the best point was about topic choice. It is important to pick and interesting topic. Even if you have an opinion on this topic that people don’t agree with, at least they will be attentive listeners. A bad topic also can affect a speech because usually the person giving the speech will not have much passion about the information they are presenting.
    The second point that I thought was important was starting with and apology. If you start by saying sorry I had a lot of work last night so… You are automatically admitting defeat. It is also very unprofessional and an unacceptable excuse.

  90. Jeff Phelps says:

    I am a student in cst 110-17. I believe that habit that is most common with me is #3. I have to have more confidence in the topic that I choose and be able to relate it to the audience and not be afraid that it could be boring. That if I choose an interesting topic I have to also make it come off as interesting

  91. Melkitsedek Ogunfiditimi says:

    Presenting is something that many people fear. What is the reason for this? There are many bad habits of presenting, 10 of which are discussed in this article. Some people may have read this article and thought “Oh,I never make these mistakes. When I present, it will be humorous, informative, and overall, perfect,” but untill you are actually on stage giving the presentation, you don’t realize how tough this can be. I have read this article in depth, and will strive to prepare presentations to the best of my ability, realizing that I am not perfect, and there is always much to learn.

  92. Malida Thammavong says:

    I am student and taking CST 110-42: Introduction to Communication at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College

    I think that #4 could have been a problem for me. There are times when I would pick the same subject/ topic as the same person as me or when it would be the easiest or that most people are doing the same thing so why not. And when people keep doing the same presentation over and over again it is going to get boring an you don;t want to listen anymore. So i try to branch out from tohers and try to do my own thing and talk about something I find interesting and would take the time and effort to present something I do like and enjoy. Than something that someone else is doing and get it done faster but be the same topic.

  93. Diep Nguyen says:

    CST 100-02 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.
    My most problem about presentation is choosing a bad topic. Sometimes I choose a wide range topic that I could not manage to do it, or I lost myself in the information I found. However, I also found that I am not the only one that had this issue. Whenever I do group-project, I immediately see my group-mates pick the topic that too much for us. I think choosing a bad topic is not a bad thing, but not listening to your professors or other people advice is. In my experiences, narrowing down your topic by making a list of location, time, characters, etc could help to make your work become easier.

  94. Michelle Paredes says:

    I am a student at Northern Virginia Community College in CST110-42. Currently I am dealing with trying to control my nerves. My hands get really sweaty and my voices gets shaky so it sounds like I’m going to start crying. I also lean my body over to one side so I can feel more comfortable, but that obviously isn’t good pubic speaking posture. I’m trying to get better at this but trying to fixing something that happens by nature is extremely difficult. However, thank you for the insightful article!
    Michelle Paredes

  95. Zackary Murphy says:

    I am a student at NVCC, currently in CST 110-42.

    Choosing a bad topic is something I have struggled with. What caught my eye about this bad habit was the part about the girl choosing “why water is important.” I liked that any topic can be a good topic if you are passionate about it. This to me just means that it is easy to avoid choosing a bad topic, simply by choosing one you are interested in!

  96. Craig Hadden says:

    I feel the pain of those examples. Reading a speech has to be one of the worst!

    You might also like the short video about 25 public-speaking mistakes you should avoid, which you’ll find on my blog. (Just click my name above to go straight to the video post.)

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