How to Annoy Your Live Audience: 11 Easy Steps

I have the pleasure and sometimes the uncomfortable displeasure of attending a lot of conferences, trade shows and meetings. Some presenters are wonderful and others have the uncanny ability to trigger a physical reflex to either constantly check my Blackberry or take a nap. Whether you are a speaker on a panel, a keynoter at a conference or the person leading an internal meeting, you have the lofty responsibility to keep people’s attention. It’s not easy, we all know that. So if you want to strive for mediocrity on stage, here are 12 easy ways to bore or annoy your audience (who aren’t as captive as you think):

  1. Read every word on every slide of your 56-deck-deep Powerpoint presentation
  2. Ignore the audience and why they’re there
  3. Check your mobile device during your presentation
  4. Text and check emails while your co-presenters are up (see #3)
  5. Ignore the time limits
  6. Laugh, unpredictably, throughout your presentation
  7. Say “um” or “uh” more than 4 times during your presentation
  8. Promote your organization, your goods/services or yourself for more than 7 seconds
  9. Veer off-topic and stay there
  10. Race through your presentation as if you’re at a speed reading convention
  11. Make stuff up

Am I missing anything to this list of sure-fire ways to annoy your audience? Please add to the list, as I hope to present this at an upcoming conference if I’m invited.

(Oh – Take these 11 steps and add “Don’t” to the beginning of each sentence, and you will captivate your audience.)

– Diane Schwartz

On Twitter: @dianeschwartz


  • Heather Bhatty

    (Do not) Stand in front of the screen and if you are using a projector, have the lamp shining in your face.

  • Jill Baker

    Annoy by presenting fuzzy art and unstyled text (Please use high res images and limit your font selection. Just because PowerPoint has a lot of bells and whistles, kindly refrain from using all of them.)

    Annoy by attempting humor that is not politically correct (Please, no sexist, racist, political or regional slams)

    Annoy by not sourcing and dating your data (Please give me a sense that it is credible)

    Annoy by not providing follow-up contact information (Don’t make it hard for me to find you)

    Annoy by regurgitating someone’s else’s presentation without attribution (Please say something new, and if borrowed, give credit where credit is due.)

    Thanks for the smile — and gentle reminders.

  • Karen Benning

    Say that you are almost finished then continue on for another 15+ minutes.

  • Mary Lou Dahms

    More ways to annoy:
    Blow into the microphone to see if it is on
    Use repetitive phrases such as, “Know what I mean?”, “Another case in point”, “See what I’m saying?”

  • justin locke

    start late, or generally see everyone’s time as an infinite commodity,

    reboot your computer in the middle of the show and display the windows startup screens in silence,

    don’t bother doing a sound check,

    the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?

  • Martin Bredl

    My Nr. 1 avoid would be: Do not use Powerpoint. Much better tell stories!