Top Audience Annoyances That Mar Good Presentations (Part 1)

When you’re trying to improve your skills in a particular activity, you tend to focus on the Do’s. And most online advice is created on these lines – what, why, how, when, where to do something.

This applies to presentations and speeches too. But, sometimes its important to stop and also contemplate the negatives: the simple mistakes and technical errors that are a blight on good performances.

I have spoken earlier on audience distractions and limited attention spans, how to recognise these signs, and gain back their attention.

But what about things that annoy your audience and make presentations a less useful or unpleasant experience for them?

“You have to be quite heavily invested in someone to do them the honour of telling them you’re annoyed with them.”
― Alain de Botton

Some mistakes set the tone for your speech – costing you the audience’s support even before you’ve begun. Others occur during the presentation, and have a small-to-big annoyance effect based on how you handle the situation.

In this two-part series, I’ll be talking about top audience annoyances and how you can avoid them or turn them into positives.


Your presentation starts late or your lack of preparation is visible. You make excuses to your listeners like “This was on short notice” or “I’ve been travelling all week”. Nothing annoys a smart audience more than excuses – particularly when they are obviously not true. Even if the excuse is valid, buck up and carry on, without shifting the blame on others.


While this falls into beginner’s territory, even veteran presenters find it hard to break certain habits. Testing your mic in front of live audience will easily make it to the top ten annoyances list, if it ever gets compiled. Another pet peeve is a presenter hollering that they can’t see the audience due to bright lighting. You can avoid these scenarios by checking the venue in advance. Preparation is always key!


You want to focus on the topic, cover everything and finish your presentation on time. People get that, but ignoring questions from audience members who are genuinely curious will not win you brownie points. If you can’t answer right away, let them know you’ll be tackling this point in one of your later slides or at the end of the session.


You definitely want the audience to focus on your presentation. But insisting on or forcing them to switch off their mobile devices is not the way to go. Today’s listeners use their tabs and phones to take notes or share your quotes on social media, even as you present. Ask them to put the device on silent mode, so that loud pings don’t distract other members. Focus your energy on delivering a speech that forces them to pay attention.

Have you committed any of these annoying mistakes? Stay tuned for the next part in the series.

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *