Pet Peeves: What to avoid when giving a speech
- Being unprepared.
- Dressing improperly for your speech. Don’t
give anyone easy reasons to tune you out.
- Not looking at your audience.
- Unclear language, sloppy language, fillers, and
- Using the words “things”,
“this”, “that”, “they”, ”those”, where the meaning is not clear, or
where this or that has a name. EXAMPLES: “This explains why that
didn’t work.” “In this reaction, they found...”
- “This here is your”, “Here
you’ve got your”, “then you get your”, and all related sayings.
It’s not mine and I don’t have it!
- Speaking so low that you
can’t be heard, or too fast, or in a monotone, or to the screen, or
- Saying “um”, “uh”, “right”,
“like”, “gonna”, “OK”, “you know”, “kind of”, “sort of”, “pretty much”,
and all other fillers and wafflings.
- Mispronouncing words. If
you don’t know how to say a word, look it up!
- Not defining terms, assuming
your audience knows too much.
- Apologizing. “I’m sorry
this isn’t readable”, “I’m sorry I don’t understand this.”
- Not explaining graphs and figures. It is all
too common to have someone say “As you can see from this figure,”
before they even explain what is being shown, or what is being plotted
versus what, and what one should expect to see from such a graph.
- Notecards. You should have sufficient
command of your material to speak extemporaneously. Using
notecards is forbidden. Use your slides to prompt you.
- Reading slides to your audience. Everyone
in the audience is perfectly capable of reading the slide by
themselves. Avoid this pitfall by putting key words or phrases on
the slide, not complete sentences.
- Illegible or ugly slides.
- Slides with small print,
or that are cluttered, or that serve no purpose.
- Slides with useless data.
- Slides with large tables
of data. Retype the useful information and omit the rest.
- Strange mechanics, pointer madness, and
slide projector silliness.
- Waving pointers around, waving
hands around, using a pointer as a cane, using the wrong end of the
pointer, fidgeting or moving around a lot.
- Pointing to the screen in
such a way that no one knows what you are pointing at.
- Standing in front of the
projector, or otherwise blocking people’s view.
- Introductions that say “I’m gonna talk about
this, and I’m gonna talk about that, and I’m gonna talk about that,”
and conclusions that say “And I talked about this, and I talked about
that, and I talked about that.” Be specific, even to the point of
saying “The take home message is...”, and in the introduction, say “I’m
going to talk about this because...” In other words, actually say
something; give us the big picture in the introduction and
conclusion. Also avoid simply restating the introduction in the
- Using “et al.” in your reference list. The
rule is this: If you use et al., then “Al” will be in the
Pet Peeves: What to avoid when you are in
- Arriving late.
- Talking to one another.
- Giggling (unless the speaker has made a joke on
- Reading your newspaper.
- Being sullenly silent when the moderator asks if
there are any questions. It is very demoralizing to a speaker
when the audience has the deer-in-the-headlights look at the end of a
presentation. If you didn’t understand something, ASK! The
only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask for fear of looking
stupid. Also, remember that if the students don’t ask questions,
the profs will (heh, heh, heh...).