10 effective presentation tips that are total garbage and make me want to scream

10 effective presentation tips that are total garbage and make me want to scream

What's holding you back from being an effective presenter? Bad advice.

A lot of the tips out there about how to overcome your fear of public speaking and/or become an effective presenter are GARBAGE.

So, I hope you’re in the mood for some playful snark my friends, because it’s coming FULL FORCE.  Here are the silliest effective presentation or public speaking tips I've seen. 

Let me break this down a little more...

1. Search your soul?

I don't even really have much to say except that when I read this one I had such an intense eye roll situation going on that my eyes hurt for the rest of the day. 

2. Be yourself?

I see this one a lot. First of all, I'm sick of hearing this little gem in general, how about you? 

I mean, has this advice ever really helped anyone, for anything

Like, I need to know. Have these authors ever been in an audience wondering: 

Oh, wow. I sure would enjoy this presentation if they would just BE THEMSELVES! MY GOD! 

What, exactly, are all these presenters acting like, if not themselves? A kangaroo? Adult human dressed up like a chinchilla? 80’s hair metal band singer?

… Cuz all those sound kinda cool, now that I think of it...

3. Meditate?

OK. Look. I meditate. It's good to do for your general physical and emotional well-being.

But unless you’re going to guide your audience through a meditation, it's not going to help you deliver content in a way that helps your audience pay attention, learn, or remember it.

4. Embrace your nerves?

There's nothing someone with anxiety loves more than to be told to embrace their anxiety.

Like, oh. gee. All this time I wouldn't have been anxious if I just embraced my anxiety? Why didn't someone tell me that before! 

5. Be professional, respectful, and nice?

This one confuses me. 

Yeah, sure, it's good advice kind of generally...but these aren't posts about how to tell your chair they're cramping your research agenda. It's not a post about telling the director you're being overworked and underpaid. It's not a post about how to be a nice human instead of a sociopath.

This is a post about presentations. Like, has anyone ever experienced one where the presenter was belligerent, insulted the audience, and ended with a dramatic mic drop before storming out of the room?

(If so, I need to learn the details. Send me a note at echo (at) echorivera.com)

6. Speak your heart?

I don't even...huh? 

7. Don’t Use Filler Words?

You might be confused as to why this one is here. Guess what: it's kind of wrong.

Filler words are not always bad, so catch up on the latest & greatest studies. In short, overuse is bad, but when used well, filler words can actually be a good thing. 

Also, women are judged negatively no matter what we do. Personally, I don't bother trying to please everyone because it's impossible, so I probably overuse filler words. People will either think I'm stupid or intimidating either way and there isn't much I can do about it. Oh well, whatever.

8. Smile and make eye contact?

Ok yeah, this one is mostly fine, but all the intense eye contact in the world won't make up for other problems in your slide design or delivery. 

Plus, have you ever been the recipient of someone's frequent eye contact? Sometimes I feel like they have an eye contact quota to meet and it makes me feel awkward. Not everyone wants to be stared at while you're talking, so be careful with how you implement this one. 

9. Strike a Power Pose?

Sorry to be the messenger on this one. People thought they were citing evidence-based best practice on this one for a while...but then someone tried to replicate the study and it didn't go well. 

10. Drink room temperature water?

The winner for most ridiculous advice ever goes to, "drink room temperature water." This is a tip I saw when researching ways to overcome your fear of public speaking. There was an explanation. I laughed at it. That’s pretty much the end of my comment about this one. 

These Garbage Tips Won’t Make You An Effective Presenter

These tips make me want to scream because they don’t provide practical strategies for how to become an effective presenter. 

Saying "um" less and making eye contact more won't make you an effective presenter, and I promise you that I will never spew out garbage like this just because it takes up space and sounds nice. 

None of those tips will ensure that you create and deliver a presentation that uses good information design, graphic design, dataviz, visuals, or storyboarding.

You know, the things that actually help you effectively present your work. 

Look. I’m not just trying to be a jerk. The thing is, I used to read tips like these and even tried to implement some of them. Then I would get discouraged because I was still terrified of public speaking or felt like my presentation still sucked. 

You don't need some surface level pep talk about how to be more ambitious and relaxed. 

But I know a resource that can: A sample of lessons from Countdown to Stellar Slides.


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Thanks for reading!

with joy,
Dr. Echo Rivera