The Top 12 Mistakes that Conference Speakers Make on Stage


 Having attended hundreds of conferences I have seen a LOT of speaker mistakes – here’s a list of 12 Things to avoid and some Useful Tips for Presenters & Speakers

Common Speaker Mistakes
Preparation and Practice can help avoid Speaker Mistakes at Conferences

Please don’t make these common speaker mistakes at any upcoming event.

  1. It’s Data dump – Way too much info!

Too many slides – not enough pictures and stories. Just lots of Points, bullet lists, facts and data. Reading words and sentences from the Slide – exactly as written.

TIP: Shift from Logic to Emotion with by adding more stories, case studies, people and interaction. Improve your “Story to Stuff ratio”. Leave them wanting MORE of you – not LESS.  THINK “This is just part 1 of 10 parts” – Good speakers are invited back often.

  1. Poorly designed Powerpoint!

Way Too much text and dot points. Lots of small font writing on the slides.  Tiny Font Size – use BIG text so we can read it. Shows Graphs & Tables  while saying “You can read this but…” TIP: Use better pictures and have a low text to pics ratio.

Coloured fonts – We can’t read light blue on dark blue. Missing Edges – Don’t put text or pics near the slide edges – these can get cut off and can’t be seen when shown on a screen.

Low screen height in some rooms means the audience can’t read the bottom third of the powerpoint screen. Avoid Using High Res (3MB+) pics – these are slow to load and cause a delayed clicker response. Avoid bells, whistles, weird transition slides – they are annoying. Using “Funny” Cartoons that need to be read/explained or don’t make sense

TIP: Put MORE effort into your powerpoint. Slides are NOT notes, they are visual entertainment – Use fewer words on screen and less slides if you know your stuff. Read books by Nancy Duarte

  1. Poor use of Powerpoint

Clicking backwards or forwards rapidly through the slide deck looks bad – as does skipping lots slides while saying “you don’t need this”. TIPS: press B, Press W or type the slide number and press return. –     Have a Backup Plan – print out your slides and have a copy handy.

  1. Poor Microphone Use

Tapping the mike or looking clueless on stage about turning the microphone on. Leaning forward over the lectern mike (Darth Vader effect).  Speaking in the opposite direction to the microphone.

TIP: Clip the lapel mike 10 cm under your chin in the centre.  Learn how to turn it on and off and connect it. Work coooperatively with the AV department!

  1. Trouble with Technology or Videos – Can’t use the “Clicker” or laptop computer

Press the right buttons! Don’t make apologies about bad AV skills.

Videos can cause problems – Learn how to embed and attach any videos in a presentation. Always do a pre-check that the Videos will run from the AV desk and know how to troubleshoot. (Also need copyright to show the videos or music)

TIP: Learn how to use the presentation clicker & a laser pointer (not your finger). If there are multiple screens and you use a laser pointer – point to all screens.

  1. Not connecting with the Audience – Little eye contact – Eyes are Down or Back 

Face the audience not the presentation screen!

Don’t stare at the back wall or a just few spots. Look around the audience and connect with  individual audience members.

Don’t wander the stage or pace needlessly looking down at the floor.

TIP: Start by standing in one power spot – proud and loud. Learn stage anchoring techniques.

  1. Speaker looks like a Hobo! – A Fashion disaster

Wear bright colours to stand out – not drab colours to look dreary. Avoid wearing Black clothing in front of a black stage.

TIP: Dress to impress! – Hair, makeup, teeth, clothes.

  1. Lousy First or Last Impression 

Some speakers fumble at the start & have a weak finish. Don’t open with apologies or niceties – get to the point. Don’t finish with “Well My time is up” – End on Time or before!

TIP: Start and finish strong. Memorable makes more money. Last words Linger. Avoid finishing up with Q & A session. Come back and wrap up for another 5 mins after questions.

  1. Speaker goes way over their allocated time. Poor Timing & Pacing

Does audience attention run out before the content finishes?. Remember the only person who loves your content as much as you is you (and maybe your mum?)

TIP: Less is more. Be focussed. Repeat the message in different ways using stories, examples or anecdotes.  THREE BIG POINTS or IDEAS is usually sufficient.

  1. Poor Stagecraft (use of the stage / presenting space)

Wandering in front of projector – Highlighting your crotch! Wobbling around pointlessly. Keep your hands and arms under control.

Don’t Stand in the Dark spot on stage – Find and stand in the glare of the spotlight.

Avoid wandering aimlessly between the laptop (to advance slides) and the screen.

TIP: Stand and deliver from one power spot can help (on left of stage or centre from the audience view), change spots when you change points. Learn stage anchoring and how to use the presentation clicker discreetly.

  1. Upset or offended the Audience

Don’t Refer to audience members by name to humiliate or embarass them. Don’t rub their “pain spot” endlessly – Cause NO pain! Don’t bully the audience – using phrases “You must” “You should” or “You need to”

TIP: Avoid causing them pain, or using politically incorrect, sexist or racist comments


  1. Don’t Be a Jerk!

Don’t criticise, condemn or complain about the organiser, other speakers, the venue or your lack of time or preparation.


TIP: Be a professional, positive and smile more on stage.


Avoid these Common Mistakes and be a Conference Speaker or Presenter that is MEMORABLE for the RIGHT REASONS

  • World-class presentation content
  • Conference presentations that make people think in radical ways
  • Immediate practical take-home messages from every presentation
  • Total focus on the interests of the audience in every speech
  • Presenter fits material into whole theme of conference
  • Interesting, energetic, dynamic – not racist, sexist or ageist
  • Give the kind of presentation where conference audiences want MORE

What really annoys you at conferences?

This article is a work in progress – Your input for this article is welcome.

If you have any more ideas for Speaker Mistakes or Tips –

Phone Dave on 0408375100 or email me.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.