My crankiness is a hit! One of my most popular, now annual, articles is pointing out annoying communications. To get caught up, please read the two previous articles:
To not disappoint my loyal readers, I’ve collected yet another list of annoying communications that I want to end in 2013. Please read and let me know if you agree and if you have a few of your own.
1: Presenters who do PowerPoint presentations when they’re told to give a demo
I can’t think of one moment in the history of time that anyone has ever said, “Gee, that was a good demo, but I really wish he had done a PowerPoint presentation.” In the Rock/Paper/Scissors world of presentations, Demo always beats PowerPoint.
Why is this true? Because the demo shows your product in action, a PowerPoint doesn’t
I go to so many events where the presenters are told to only do demos of their products and yet the presenter thinks the audience would be better served if they gave them a PowerPoint. Those presentations always fail especially when put up next to anyone else’s demo.
2: Reading long bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation
There’s a combination of problems here. First, you should never have a ton of text in a PowerPoint presentation. Everyone knows this cardinal presentation rule yet for some reason certain people think, “Yeah, that’s for other presenters. But my stuff is fantastic and everyone’s going to want to see every word on the screen.”
That would be true if we were all eight years old and we needed you to read to use like our second grade teacher. But in reality, we’re intelligent enough to come see your presentation. You’re not intelligent enough to realize that’s not the way to communicate to an intelligent audience.
3: Referring to your product as being “on steroids”
I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who says this about their product has absolutely no idea how steroids actually work. Besides being a massively abused analogy, it’s also wrong and it associates your product with an illegal activity that has negative health side effects. Steroids do make muscles bigger, but not in an “eat a can of spinach a la Popeye” way and I automatically become stronger which is the way most use the analogy. Anabolic steroids simply reduce the rest and recuperation time needed when exercising. You still need to lift the weights, you just don’t need to rest as much and therefore you can grow bigger faster. When used this way it’s almost always considered illegal and you’ll have to suffer the negative side effects to your health. Why the hell would you want to associate your product with such a practice? Don’t let anyone get away with this idiotic analogy ever again. Anytime someone tells you their product is “Like _______, but on steroids,” simply respond, “So it’s loaded with acne and has shrunken testicles? Tell me more.”
4: Anyone who says, “If I told you I’d have to kill you”
This falls into the category of “I really don’t want to explain why I’m not revealing what is probably not confidential information, so instead I’ll just be an asshole and say this overly used obnoxious phrase which I think is clever, but isn’t, and I’ll hopefully diffuse the situation and we’ll move on to another topic.”
If anyone says this to you, your first response is to not laugh. Instead, stare at them like the idiot they are and say, “How about I just kill you first for not telling me?”
5: Anyone who says, “He’s got a face for radio”
Once again overly used and the person who says it thinks they’re really clever. Isn’t it funny how so many ugly people are in radio? Guess what, there are a ton of ugly people in TV as well. Have you had a good look at Larry King?
6: Anyone who uses more than one exclamation mark
I think what annoys me so much about this practice is it takes so little (just hold the key down for a second or two) to create so much useless noise. You see this practice happening so much in live chat rooms. In the days of IRC (Internet Relay Chat) the abuse was over the top.
What do two, five, ten, or twenty seven exclamation marks communicate more than just one exclamation mark? Absolutely nothing, so just stop doing it.
7: Letting panelists introduce themselves at the beginning of a panel discussion
OH MY GOD DO I HATE THIS! Most panel discussions last between 45 minutes to one hour. If you let a panel of four people each take five minutes to introduce themselves, you’ve just eaten up 20 minutes, or close to half of your presentation time. As a moderator I know you think you’re being polite to the panelists, but you’re being an A-1 asshole to the audience who paid and/or is taking out the time of their day to be at your panel. Never let panelists introduce themselves. Simply say their first names, who they represent, and then the first question should be the title of the panel. For more, register for and download my free article “More Schmooze, Less Snooze: How to Deliver ‘The Most Talked About’ Panel Session.”
8: Any manager who says, “We need to boost employee morale”
If you knowingly are aware that your employees are unhappy and you don’t deal with it immediately, but rather wait for a meeting and then a planning committee to come up with a single one-spot solution to make everyone happy, you’ve already lost and your company’s culture sucks. All Band-Aid-style employee morale boosting efforts are pathetic and transparent. Your employees are not idiots. If they were, you wouldn’t have hired them. For more, read 10 Tales of Condescending Morale Boosting Efforts and 10 Effective Techniques to Boost Employee Morale Without Increasing Salaries.
9: Making a phone call the moment the plane lands
Yes, I know you need to connect with the people who are picking you up, but there are so many other ways to communicate with them that doesn’t involve all the other people on the plane that are inches away from you. Yes, for the past six hours you were incredibly polite to all your fellow passengers, but now that this plane has landed, all bets are off. I’m turning on my phone and calling my friend.
“Yeah, we just landed. We need to pick up our bags…BLAH BLAH BLAH.”
You may not think it’s a big deal, but when you’re trapped on the plane, listening to what now becomes the same exact call repeated ten times with people just a few feet from you, you want to punch everyone in the nose.
Either wait until you step off the plane to make the call, or just send a friggin’ text message.
10: Adding to the echo chamber during a live event
The idea of a “second screen” engagement (e.g., Twitter alongside a live broadcast or chat window next to a live video stream) sounds like a great idea. So many companies have offered technologies to enable this live engagement experience. In theory, it should be fantastic. That’s until you actually participate. Ninety nine percent of the discussion is pure banality where the participants often just repeat what was said during the live event, or announce who they like or don’t like. There’s never any actual substance.
I have only seen “second screen” content work when you combine human filtering. If contributors know they’re being watched and their content will only be published if they add substance, then they’ll come up to the plate. A great example of this is Witstream, an approved list of funny bloggers whose funny tweets, especially during live events such as the Oscars or Presidential Debates, are vetted before they appear on the site. Without oversight you’ll get a lot of vomit participation and I’m sure you’ll see a lot of exclamation marks.
11: Using Klout to measure anything
Klout has very smartly branded themselves as the “Standard for influence.” The problem is Klout thinks I’m influential on Al Green and Craigslist. It’s hard to take this product seriously or anyone who uses this product seriously when it obviously can’t even scrape my content correctly. The problem is we’re obsessed with ranking programs, and yet we don’t care if we understand how we’re being ranked. The general attitude is “it’s better than nothing.” Now I’ve got a number attached to my name and it’s larger than that person’s number so I must be more important, right?
For more complaints on Klout, their competitor Kred, and how they’re poorly measuring our influence please read “Do Online Reputation Measurement Services Like Klout and Kred Support a New Kind of Plagiarism?”
12: Auto-tweeting achievements in online games
You know who cares about your latest achievement in an online game? You and possibly someone else who is also playing that game – that’s it, nobody else cares. Seriously, no one cares. Mostly because I don’t know what getting a seventh level magic potion in Fart Stormer means.
We all know why these auto-tweet game achievements exist. The game developer is hoping to get some free viral marketing through your social network. Most of these social games can only grow by roping in your friends. Announcing that you’re playing is critical to their survival. But as we’re seeing with the decline of Zynga, we all have our breaking point. And it’s obvious we’re hitting upon it right now. If you’re a gamer that auto-tweets your achievements, ask yourself what’s more important to you, getting that magic potion or keeping all your friends? Then again, the fact that you’re playing the game may already mean no one is talking to you and the only thing you can look forward to is getting that magic potion. Good luck, just don’t tell me about it.
13: Profile photos that aren’t you
Are you in the witness protection program? Then get off of Facebook. Do you think your kids or your pet are the cutest in the whole wild world? I’m thrilled. Nobody else thinks so. Stop using them in your profile picture. Post photos of your kids and pets and favorite cartoon to your Facebook page, but leave your profile picture for its intended purpose – a picture of you.
So often I’ll get friended by people I’m not sure I know. To confirm our relation I have to then click on their profile picture and then I realize, “Oh yeah, I remember him.” But if your profile picture is of your pet or your kid, I have no way of knowing. At this point, I’m also really annoyed and I really don’t want to be your Facebook friend.
14: “Discussion Over” people
A good example of this is when a friend chooses to engage a discussion with you, usually about sports. He announces that one athlete was the best at his game, and then he buttons it with “end of discussion” (e.g., “Magic Johnson was the NBA’s best point guard. End of discussion.”).
Uggh, I want to hit these people. I know you think you’re being hip and cool by showing your emphatic love for the athlete, and that you’re the all knowing sports fan, but to add that final disclaimer that essentially says I’m not supposed to respond is really obnoxious. Want to have a discussion with me about sports? Congratulations, you’re going to win because my knowledge of sports is essentially nil.
Your turn to gripe
There’s no possible way, even with three years of complaining, that I could have hit every single possible annoying way people communicate. Please let me know where you think I’m wrong and add your favorite annoying communication in the comments below.
Stock photo of airplane phone conversation and crying boy courtesy of Big Stock Photo. Stock photo of condescending manager courtesy of Shutterstock. Creative Commons photo attribution to CelebMuscle, Jeezny, ekurvine, SimonDoggett, and Ezalis.