Article Category: Resources for Speakers

Speaking Survey says: Speaker DO’s and DON’Ts


SurveyEver wonder what the audience really wishes you would do better when you speak?

Chris Brogan conducted a quick and informal survey asking the question:

Quick: Give me YOUR 3 things you wish speakers would do better, or not do at all!

The raw results are interesting to look at, but not very accessible. So I did some further analysis:

  1. First, I stripped out all the noise, and divided it up into three columns so it was easier to read.
  2. Then, I began looking for sets of responses which were identical or closely related.
  3. I grouped these under a single phrase which collectively described them.
    For example, I grouped four responses — “have great take-home notes“, “give a deliverable“, “use handouts“, “give me more than PP as their handout” — under the collective description: “Provide useful handouts (not just slides)”
  4. This process involved some interpretation, but I tried to make reasonable assumptions.

Do’s and Don’ts: Time to Change Your Speaking Strategies?

The results of this analysis are:

  • 19 responses: Be engaging; Involve the audience; Conversation not presentation
  • 14 responses: Do not read the slides
  • 9: Focus on the message; avoid lengthy self-promotion
  • 8: Better(more) visuals/diagrams/stats/other media
  • 8: Show passion; Show enjoyment; Smile; Relax
  • 8: Clear, simple, and useful messages and language
  • 6: Do not use Powerpoint (or “bullets”) at all
  • 6: Do not go over time
  • 6: More time for Q&A / Answer questions thoughtfully
  • 5: Use stories / metaphors
  • 5: Challenge the audience; Don’t “dumb it down”
  • 4: Know your audience
  • 4: Better takehome handouts (not Powerpoint slides)
  • 3: Make your presentation fun
  • 3: Use humor (but only if you are funny)
  • 2: Answer “what’s in it for me”
  • 16 other responses which didn’t “match up” with others, such as “be confident“, “practice“, and (one that I’ll certainly remember) “Don’t wear ties with horrible patterns and mismatched colors

The top two are particularly telling. It would be hard to imagine any speaker could be engaging if they were reading their slides.

Not satisfied yet, I continued looking for patterns among these groups. After some juggling, I massaged them into three meta-groups.

Presentation Techniques (47 responses)

  • 14: Do not read the slides
  • 8: Better(more) visuals/diagrams/stats/other media
  • 8: Show passion; Show enjoyment; Smile; Relax
  • 6: Do not use Powerpoint (or “bullets”) at all
  • 5: Use stories / metaphors
  • 3: Make your presentation fun
  • 3: Use humor (but only if you are funny)

Audience Focus (37 responses)

  • 19: Be engaging; Involve the audience; Conversation not presentation
  • 6: Do not go over time
  • 6: More time for Q&A / Answer questions thoughtfully
  • 4: Know your audience
  • 2: Answer “what’s in it for me”

Content Focus (26 responses)

  • 9: Focus on the message; avoid lengthy self-promotion
  • 8: Clear, simple, and useful messages and language
  • 5: Challenge the audience; Don’t “dumb it down”
  • 4: Provide useful handouts (not just slides)

Viewed under this light, I believe the survey provides a wealth of information. I’m always looking for ways to improve my presentations, and the numbers above provide excellent clues as to where I should focus my efforts.

How about you? What are YOUR 3 things you wish speakers would do better, or not do at all?

Raw Survey Data

Responses to the survey are given below. Each row corresponds to three responses from one person.

Not repeat speecheshave great take-home notesbe genuinely engaging
create metaphorsrelate to the audience in the roomadd humor
Don’t read off the fscking slide

extend past the presogive a deliverableinspire
Don’t hide behind a podiumLearn to use your voicefollow presentationZen
actually answer questions with real info, not high level, been-said-a-million times, fast responses

dont read the slidesprovide practical applicationTell me how *I* can use it/do it
assume the audience is intelligentless text, more actiontell me why you are the best
provoke mebe confidentbannish bullet points
Eliminate the following words from their vocabulary: 1. Resource (referring to people). 2. Monetize. 3. Leverage.

I wish presenters wouldn’t read off powerpointgive me more than PP as their handoutnot go over time
speakers should spend less than one whole sentence on their own credentials. I didn’t pay to hear a resume.

Tell storiesshow statisticskeep my mind energized
use diagramsuse handouts

Meet the people in the roomAllow participation from the startShow pretty pictures
Not read the presentation slide to meAllow time for questionsTalk to the whole room not just the front row
manage time betteruse visualsnot give a lecture, engage people instead
practicerelaxlisten
Don’t read long text slides to meDon’t make me hold my question until the endDon’t run out of time
Not chew gum. It is very distracting

Be passionate about what they’re talking aboutNot use lousy powerpoint presentationsEngage the audience
be more engagingadd an element fo FUN to the presentation (esp if subject is dry)Talk to me not at me
smileengage the audiencebe simple & clear w/points. like don’t assume the audience knows current catch-phrases
Make Presentations FUNSpeak ClearlyHave Great – CLEAR – Takeaways
not use Powerpoint slides as notecardsNot start by saying they won’t talk too longtell more stories less theories
Not read Powerpoints verbatumNot tell lame ‘icebreakers’Stay on Target’
stay away from powerpointno ramblingask questions and involve the audience
engage with the audienceforget the slidesmesmorise me
Anchor on 3 or less very clear pointsConvey messages for these points via interesting and engaing stories

Don’t read long text slides to meDon’t make me hold my question until the endDon’t run out of time
DON’T READ YOUR #$@#% SLIDESDON’T READ YOUR #%#$# SLIDESDON’T READ YOUR #$#$% SLIDES
Actually give useful information

Engage the audience moreBetter media in slidesStop reading the slides
Stop telling us how wonderful something is, and how excited you are… get to the meat and potatoesDon’t talk soft and slow, like we won’t get it unless you doDon’t bring me down at the end (emotionally) to make a serious point… especially if you’ve been up-beat and funny unti
dont read from slidesdont use humor if you cant or havent practiceddont give talks on things ur not passionate about
NOT give long, detailed biographies that I could have read in the program. Get on with the talk

No more BulletpointsDont read the scriptDo involve the conversation and the community
no PP plsENGAGE, INTERACT, INFORMUSE RICH MEDIA APPLICATION – show some YouTUBEs
they should frame the speech better to lessen tangents

Don’t try to be someone you’re notdon’t be stiff as a door nailDO end when you’re supposed to
Not dumb down their presentation but challenge us insteadLook like they are enjoying being there even if nervousDon’t wear ties with horrible patterns and mismatched colours
DON’T READ ME YOUR SLIDES!Care about what you’re saying. Or pretend to.Know your audience at least a little.
Give me the Why factor!

Don’t give a speech I already saw you give on YouTube.Don’t include the phrase “join the conversation” ad nauseaumNo pants.
lead with most relavant pointbe engaged with that specific audience – don’t memorizeopen up follow on conversations
Good speakers establish genuine rapport in the first few minutesmake points through story not textfinish early
people are there to listen, not readCut down on slide clutter

Poor speakers hide behind facts, podiums, and accomplishments

know your audiencebe humble, be fun, be honest, informative, not advertorial. leave lots of time for q & a
be more engagingadd an element fo FUN to the presentation (esp if subject is dry)Talk to me not at me
show passionhave conversation not presentation

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Comments icon6 Comments

  1. This is so awesome! Thanks for doing this analysis. Very cool stuff to read and observe. I appreciate that you took it the extra distance.

  2. CK says:

    In corporate and technical presentations, it is difficult to avoid PowerPoint. So, the suggestion that we don’t use it all is not feasible.
    However, minimal use of slides and most important, the thumb rule ” You are the show, not the screen !” will help us engage the audience.
    cheers

  3. sabina says:

    Good reading and useful tips for everyone- whether novice or experienced!

  4. Kelly kozar says:

    Thanks Andrew and Chris! I’m going to be incorporating your survey results into a module on presentation skills in which I teach.

  5. Jon Thomas says:

    “# 6: Do not use Powerpoint (or “bullets”) at all” Hey…that’s a low blow. I get the bullet points, but PowerPoint itself isn’t the problem. I would accept it if they had said “Bad” PowerPoint.

    That aside, this is a GREAT post and I appreciate the time you took to make the data more easily consumed. There are some great tips in there and anyone who presents in any way should know these by heart.

    One response that jumped out at me when looking at the raw data was, “Talk TO me, not AT me.” So so important to realize that presenting is a two-way conversation.

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Sadly, I think some people have never seen “good” PowerPoint, so the “bad” modifier is redundant to them.

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