Pet Peeves: What to avoid when giving a speech


  1. Being unprepared.
  2. Dressing improperly for your speech. Don’t give anyone easy reasons to tune you out.
  3. Not looking at your audience.
  4. Unclear language, sloppy language, fillers, and apologies
    1. 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...”
    2. “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!
    3. Speaking so low that you can’t be heard, or too fast, or in a monotone, or to the screen, or like mushmouth.
    4. Saying “um”, “uh”, “right”, “like”, “gonna”, “OK”, “you know”, “kind of”, “sort of”, “pretty much”, and all other fillers and wafflings.
    5. Mispronouncing words. If you don’t know how to say a word, look it up!
    6. Not defining terms, assuming your audience knows too much.
    7. Apologizing. “I’m sorry this isn’t readable”, “I’m sorry I don’t understand this.”
  5. 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.
  6. Notecards. You should have sufficient command of your material to speak extemporaneously. Using notecards is forbidden. Use your slides to prompt you.
  7. 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.
  8. Illegible or ugly slides.
    1. Slides with small print, or that are cluttered, or that serve no purpose.
    2. Slides with useless data.
    3. Slides with large tables of data. Retype the useful information and omit the rest.
  9. Strange mechanics, pointer madness, and slide projector silliness.
    1. 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.
    2. Pointing to the screen in such a way that no one knows what you are pointing at.
    3. Standing in front of the projector, or otherwise blocking people’s view.
  10. 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 conclusion.
  11. Using “et al.” in your reference list. The rule is this: If you use et al., then “Al” will be in the audience.

Pet Peeves: What to avoid when you are in the audience

  1. Arriving late.
  2. Talking to one another.
  3. Giggling (unless the speaker has made a joke on purpose).
  4. Reading your newspaper.
  5. 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...).