The 4 Presentation Tics That Show You’re Left Over From The Last Century

Unlike my esteemed colleague Investment Writing blogger Susan Weiner who says she’s planned through March 2014, I don’t plan and write these blog posts months in advance. I bookmark ideas, write a few lines here and there, and once a week something gets published.

As we draw toward the close of the year, I’m organizing what’s left to say in the remaining posts of 2013. There’s one idea that’s been brewing all year. I’ve been putting it off while adding to it. It doesn’t quite meet my loose standards for a Rock The Boat Marketing blog topic: needs to be relevant to mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers, should offer something helpful and take an overall positive tone.

However…if I promise extra jolliness in subsequent posts, maybe you’ll indulge my following gripes about presenters at conferences whose topics touch on but are not limited to digital marketing at asset managers. Helpful? Gosh, I hope something below helps in some way to minimize these presentation offenses in 2014.

There are few business activities I love more than attending conferences and sitting in on sessions. I’m not making voodoo dolls out of most presenters, I promise. And, yes, I do have a sense of humor usually. But, what century are some of these presenters from? The following is directed to the offenders.

1. Butchering the name of the speaker you’re introducing and laughing it off.

You’ve been asked to introduce someone and didn’t go to the trouble to learn the pronunciation of the speaker’s name? Don’t try to enlist the audience in your attempts to obscure the fact by guffawing your way through a name.


People’s names aren’t an occasion to poke fun or point out differences, their names are who they are. Nobody in a 21st century audience laughs along, and you are up there all alone. If you are not a xenophobe, why act like one?

2. Blaming everything that goes wrong on “technology.”


Granted, this may have been an audience sympathy winning move at some point, back when speaker and audience stared at each other waiting for the AV guy to zoom in to save the day.

But look at the audience you’re presenting to in 2014—that is, if you can see their faces behind their smartphones and tablets. They’re not technophobes and Luddites, and they know that “technology” isn’t the bogeyman that inexplicably sabotages presentations. What’s the deal? Internet access? Display issues? Files gone missing?

Give your audience a little credit for being able to distinguish between a hapless presenter and setting-specific challenges.

3. Making jokes at the expense of women.

“The wife” is still a go-to source of inspiration for would-be jokesters. For as commonplace as this is, it still stuns me when it happens, which was at least once at every conference I attended this year. Examples: The portfolio manager who repeatedly referred to “the wife’s” dress size. The payments presenter who explained that alerts could be used to curb “the wife’s” spending.

People attend presentations to hear something new, not to be taken back to the days of Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners. This tic antagonizes women, but all in the audience are dumbfounded.

Do this at the risk of completely losing your audience. It’s impossible to pay attention to someone so gleefully disrespectful and hanging on to an earlier time.

4. Ignoring the social back channel.

Time doesn’t stop between the day presentation materials are due and the date of the presentation. The best presenters keep current and will refresh their slide content on the fly during the presentation. But that isn’t enough anymore.

Hello! In almost all public presentation contexts today, there’s a back channel on Twitter, blogs or other forums. Your audience is sharing what’s on their minds, what they’re interested in, even what they’re hoping you’ll be covering. 

Nowadays, following an event's hashtag is the least a presenter can do, to get a sense of the attendees and the overall tone of the conference.

The slide below is from a presentation that Morningstar's Leslie Marshall gave on hashtag conference use at financial services events at a Business Development Institute forum in October. 

Hashtags - How to engage with your audience one tweet at a time - BDI 10/15/13 Financial Services Social Business Leadership Forum


Business Development Institute

You have two choices:

  • To take the stage oblivious to your environment and deliver a hermetically sealed presentation. Just so you know, things can turn south when you step into something and it’s obvious that you haven’t been “listening” to what’s being said. The back channel works before, during and after your remarks.
  • To check in on Twitter or other appropriate networks and learn what you use as an opportunity to deliver a relevant, timely talk. At the minimum, you’ve shown your audience that you care about what they say. Additional, positive social lift for you and your content is a possibility, too. 

C’mon, let’s get it all out before the holidays’ official start: What tics tick you off? 

Note:The December 12 RegEd Webinar with Blane Warrene and Susan Weiner, which I mentioned when I published this post, has been postponed. Watch for an update from RegEd.