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14 Annoying Communications That Must End in 2013

on November 29, 2012

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.


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

guest November 30, 2012 at 8:41 am

People who make a very opinionated comment and then stare at you, straight faced, eyes drilling holes through your eyes…just daring you to disagree with them. Nope, not going there, I don’t want to start a dialogue with someone who is (thinks they’re) always right.

Mhtrainor November 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I can’t believe you didn’t mention “reply all”. 

I don’t need to see all of my coworkers thanking and you’re welcoming each other.  I  know they have manners.  Don’t use reply all unless you are contributing to the conversation.  Saying thanks doesn’t cut it. 

David Spark November 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm

 Ah, I refer to Reply All issues in previous year’s annoying communications lists. Take a look at #s 4, 5, and 6 from 2011 and #9 from 2012. Links at the top of the article.

guest November 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Previously, “official” political ads (annoying enough on their own) ended with the candidate seriously intoning “I approve this message.” This year, they have added an extra phrase to explain why. “I approve this message…because we need a new way forward from the backwardness of the last few years.” More like “I’m approving this message…because I don’t think you’re smart enough to understand that you are suppose to vote for me after hearing this message, so here are a few more seconds of me talking along with my picture to remind you.”

Jan Arzooman November 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I love it! “Any manager who says, “We need to boost employee morale,'” and “Discussion over people” — great points. 

I was on a flight one time and after it landed, the guy across the aisle makes a call and says, “The eagle has landed.” Really? I hate cell phone talkers anywhere I’m trapped. I think they’re bullies because they pretty much know people don’t want to have confrontations about it. I don’t mind brief, quiet calls that seem necessary, but the captains of industry making sales pitches or the women who talk non-stop about their boring day—rude. 

David Spark November 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

 “The eagle has landed?” Uggh. That’s like when someone wants to leave and they say, “Let’s rock ‘n roll.”

David Spark November 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

 I didn’t even notice that, but I think it hurts them because it takes away from the time of the ad.

Michael LaRocca November 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm

All spam is crap, but I’ve got a special dislike for the Linked In contact who I don’t know at all asking me for an Endorsement or a Recommendation. Yeah, I think so little of my own credibility that I’ll toss it around without even a bribe.

David Spark November 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm

 Yep, see #11 from the 2011 list. Definitely agree with you there.

Mike Sidders December 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Great lists!  My personal pet peeve is dropping the phrase “Size Matters!” in a headline or on a slide.  While it was worth a chuckle the first hundred times used, it is now it is the crutch of the copywriter/presenter who just doesn’t care anymore. 

David Spark December 4, 2012 at 7:48 am

 Yeah, that’s been overused like “On Steroids.”

Scott Harrigan December 4, 2012 at 11:06 am

As always Dave great article.  It like an uber post on Steriods if which I had to explain what that means I would have to kill you!!!! End of discussion.

David Spark December 4, 2012 at 11:38 am

 All very good points. :)

Michael December 5, 2012 at 7:45 am

Anyone who asks if you’re, “living the dream?”

David Spark December 5, 2012 at 9:08 am

That annoying phrase gets a monstrous amplifier if they ask you that question within a minute of meeting the person. I’d be so annoyed by the question that I’d have to say, “No, because I just met you.”

Mark December 18, 2012 at 3:51 am

Lists of complaints….end of discussion…hehe. hope this comment improves my Klout and Kred score! If not I’ll just tweet it, or list some gripes of my own in bullet point and create a slideshare presentation. Have a great 2013. Love your work!!

Tv comparisons chart February 23, 2018 at 11:44 pm

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