Annoying Habits Speakers Should Avoid

Written by Pam Chambers Be first to comment on this post.

Why does he keep doing that? Its driving me crazy! Have you ever thought this as you watched someone give a presentation? Here are five annoying habits that you should avoid:

Jingling keys and coins.

When youre nervous, your hands often tell the tale. Many people stand in front of the room, immediately put a hand in a pocket, and begin to fiddle with keys and coins. This is very annoying. Stop it! Free both hands and make meaningful gestures, or if you must, hold a marker in one hand (ready to write on a flip chart). Which brings me to the next point.

Clicking the top of the marker on and off.

As I listened to a student give a one-minute talk, I counted the number of times he clicked the top of the marker on and off. Nineteen! He was the only one who didnt notice it. In fact, he denied it.

Touching your face (especially your nose and mouth).

My sister reported listening to a counselor who spoke about parenting skills. During his talk, he constantly put his fingers on (and in) his mouth.

At the end of the evening, he asked everyone to join hands in a prayer for the children. She scrambled to makesure she didnt have to stand next to him, and pitied the two people who did!

Playing with your hair.

When youre having a bad hair day, its natural to want to tame that errant strand. However, this only calls attention to the problem, and drives people crazy in the process. Women with long hair should avoid constantly flipping it and caressing it. Tie it back, or spray it in place.

Making tsk-ing/smacking sounds.

Some people do this before each sentence as if to say, Now hear this! Get someone to fine you $1.00 each time, and youll break this habit fast.

Mastering the Q & A Session

Written by Pam Chambers Be first to comment on this post.

Speakers usually look forward to the question and answer session. Its exciting when people show interest in your topic.

But if you dont handle this well, the presentation can end on a weak note. Here are some challenges and how to handle them.

There arent any questions. Imagine: Youve generously saved 10 minutes for questions, but there arent any. Instead of, Do you have any questions? ask, What questions do you have about this, that, or the other? This assumes that they have questions, and that now is the time to ask them.

What questions do you have? Still nothing?

Without stammering, blushing, or encouraging pity, say, A common question is _______. The answer is ______.

Any other questions? (Still nothing?)

Yesterday someone asked me _________. The answer is ______.

By this time, people are thinking, Oh, I get it. Questions and answers! Then they get involved. This method always works.

You dont know the answer.There are two ways to not know the answer: the wimpy way and the confident way. Instead of cringing and weakly confessing that you dont know, be bold. Now thats something I dont know. But I know exactly where to find the answer for you, and I will! Its OK not to know everything.

Nothing can be more unnerving than a hostile question from the audience. Believe it or not, its possible to accept, and even appreciate, a heckler. Heres the ideal attitude: This is a helper disguised as a jerk.

Repeat the question to the entire group. This shows that you are willing to face the question. It allows you to buy time to collect yourself so that you dont respond weakly or with anger.

Respond to the question, continuing to look at several people in the audience. If you respond only to the person who asked the question, you remain connected to the hostility and lose your power.

Thank the person who asked the question and acknowledge his or her contribution. Chances are, other people were wondering the same thing. It’s possible that because of that question, your presentation was more complete than it would otherwise have been. When you publicly acknowledge hecklers, they get the attention they want.

Once a man in my audience rudely asked, Why should we listen to you? What are your credentials? What a great question! Though I didnt love his tone of voice, inwardly I was thrilled. I got to talk about my work without appearing to brag. I gained credibility, and was sincerely grateful for his contribution. If you retaliate against a heckler, the audience will turn against you. You must remain dignified, generous, and gracious.

Talk to All, or Just One?

Written by Pam Chambers Be first to comment on this post.

When should you provide group coaching and when should you provide individual coaching? Is it important that everyone hear the same message in the same way at the same time? Or, does the situation warrant a one-on-one conversation?

When you think about an athletic team, its easy to imagine when the coach might address the entire team at the same time. The coach may:

Identify a skill the team needs to improve

  • Describe the strengths and weaknesses of their next opponent
  • Analyze what went wrong during the last game
  • Praise a player for exemplary sportsmanship

It would be inefficient for the coach to have private conversations about those matters. But there is a place for private coaching, such as when the coach needs to:

  • Help a player master a specific skill
  • Correct a detrimental attitude
  • Assist a player with a career choice

Thats athletics. Lets talk about your business. What types of conversations should you have with your employees in a group setting? Some groups, such as the housekeeping staff at a resort, have daily pre-shift meetings. So do restaurant managers and servers. A law firm I worked with has staff meetings once a month. Other firms meet weekly. At times, an all-hands emergency meeting might be required. Some organizations hold off-site annual retreats. These situations fill the need for everyone to hear the same message in the same way at the same time.

Here is what happened with one of my clients. Ann, the human resource director, was leading a new employee orientation for twelve people. They were all supposed to have read portions of the employee handbook and have questions ready for discussion. When Ann called on one of the new employees, the young man admitted that he had not done the reading. Ann expressed her disappointment and exasperation in front of everyone instead of taking him aside for a private discussion. Everyone felt uncomfortable and Ann was perceived as a threatening authority figure.


Each seemingly small tweak or major overhaul requires your thoughtful consideration about how, when, and where to deliver your message, and to whom.

Im thinking of my client, Marci, who needed a solution for a sticky situation. She was the owner of a local publication that sold print ads. Some of her customers were complaining that their account rep, Tad, had bad breath every afternoon. But, Dont tell him I said anything!

Marci became a sleuth and learned that the culprit was kimchi from the lunch that Tad ordered every day. Rather than singling him out, she decided to gather everyone together as a group. Hey, guys. I know we like to grab our lunch at We da Bes Sandwich because its convenient, cheap, and ono. But we work in close range with each other and our clients, and people might not like our kimchi breath. So can we all ditch the kimchi from our lunches? Ask for more shredded carrots instead? Thanks!

This problem was solved in a lighthearted way and no one had to lose face.