Public Speaking Anti Patterns

Public  Speaking Anti-Patterns

Last week fellow CodeBetter blogger Kyle Baley wrote a blog topic called “Presentation Topics” (

He did a good job of presenting a number of useful tips for speaking.  Well I am going take a shot here and point out a few bad habits that some of my fellow presenters have developed over the years that do nothing but piss me off because they should know better.

1.       SHUT UP AND LISTEN – I cannot tell you how many speakers I have seen that interrupt questions from the audience. 

       If you are going to allow questions in your sessions you need to shut up, listen, and let the person asking the question finish.  Don’t  interrupt!!!!  Don’t ASSume you know what the rest of the question is.


2.       REPEAT THE QUESTION – Whenever a question is asked:  Repeat it out loud. That dude in the back probably didn’t hear the question from the front row. 

       You need to be courteous to your audience and let them know what is happening.


3.       MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT THE QUESTION IS –  If you don’t know what the question means or don’t understand it here’s a tip: Say this to the questioner: “Can you say that another way?”  This will help you understand what they are really asking.


4.       LESS IS MORE – If you have 60 slides for a 60 minute session you are not going to get to the end.  


5.       DON’T WRITE A BOOK – Slides are supposed to be outlines not dissertations. See #4.


6.       DON’T UPGRADE YOUR MACHINE – The week/day/hour/minute before your session is not the time to install that new alpha, beta, omega version.  

       Just because that beta is ready doesn’t mean your session is.  If you do this you deserve to have your shit break.


7.       DON’T MAKE EXCUSES – If stuff breaks in your session it’s your fault. You didn’t prepare properly. See #6 about upgrades.


8.       DO THE JULIA CHILD – Ever watch cooking shows. They always have one that’s done and ready to serve. You should have a copy of your sample code that runs perfectly.

      If your demo breaks you can always go to that copy.


9.       ARRIVE EARLY, SIT IN BACK – When you give a session you need to arrive early and check the lighting, sound, projection, etc in the room. All rooms are not created equally.  

     Check your colors, fonts, etc. Set up your machine with code on it and go sit in the last row. Can you read it? If not adjust accordingly.


10.   ONE FOR THE AGILE DUDES- You need to have an outline of what you are going cover.  In specifically titled sessions you need to have it planned and not do ad-hoc sessions.  


11.   FINISH ON TIME – At the last conference I attended there were a number of sessions that ran way long.  Don’t do this!!!  It’s RUDE! It’s RUDE to the attendee,

      RUDE to the conference coordinators and the RUDE to the next speaker.


12.   AND FINALLY —– Don’t Ever Ask: “How much time do we have left” – This is my BIGGEST pet peave.  You might think it’s cute. It’s not… If you ask this in a session you are a total complete idiot. 

      If you want the real  answer to this question here it is:  “Here Mr./Ms./Mrs. speaker  let me look in the conference brochure and see what time the session with YOUR FREAKING NAME  

      on it is supposed to start and end.”  Asking this question is unprofessional and silly.  Get the point?


I hope this lists helps you as a speaker and attendee.



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9 Responses to Public Speaking Anti Patterns

  1. Come on guys, it’s so easy to keep track of time. Buy a kitchen timer, put it in front of you, and start it when your session starts. You’ll always know at a glance how much time you have left. And if the timer goes off, you’ll get a laugh when you say, “the cookies are done”.

  2. Paul Litwin says:

    Lighten up, Rod. I just did the “how much time do we have” at CodeCamp Seattle. Sorry but sometimes it happens. I usally know it but sometimes I getsgoing and if I don’t have the finish time written down in front of me, I might forget. Shoot, speakers are human. But your list is pretty good.

    One pet peeve you didn’t mention and almost EVERY Microsoft person (and lots of others do this). STOP stopping and restarting your frieken powerpoint slide show for evey demo. Have you heard of using Alt+Tab or Ctrl+Tab? Stopping and restarting PPT for every demo is just plain stupid if you ask me and just wastes a bunch of time.


  3. You’re dead on (-12). I’ve been guilty of some of these myself. I’ve been learning a lot about presentation from this blog:

  4. Rod Paddock [MVP] says:

    Sahil…. Now I only owe you 2 beers instead of 3.

  5. Sahil Malik says:

    Hmm .. I do the “How much time do I have left” all the time. Not sure why that pisses you off though, primarily because towards the end I have a couple of things, all different durations, and I fit the best one in.

    But now that I know it annoys you, I’m gonna do it even more!!


  6. Rod Paddock [MVP] says:


    You made my point about #12 for me. Yes the speaker should buy a watch, use the windows clock in the lower right corner or have a person in the back of the room keep track of time for them and give them a progress report. I saw Alan Griver signal Beth Massi in her session at DevTeach… This was a GREAT idea.


  7. Rod Paddock [MVP] says:

    Chad…. Nope got back from a couple of crappy sessions at DevConnections in November. From people that should know better….

  8. Robo says:

    Wow… I was with you until 12. I get that it’s a pet peeve but dang, lighten up a bit. Sometimes you get going in the presentation or side tracked by a question and get off pace and you need to find out where you are at in terms of time so you can adjust and be professional and finish on time.
    Sure you might say they should have a watch and if they don’t they are unprepared, but seems like a pretty small thing. Just saying though.

  9. Chad Myers says:

    In other news, Rod just got back from a crappy session… 😉

    How do you REALLY feel. No, c’mon, let it out. We’re big kids here, we can take it. Lay it on us!

    Good stuff, thanks for the tips. Very handy for a presentation newbie like myself.

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