Minor Presentation Annoyances

I spend a lot of time not just giving presentations, but listening to them.  There are a lot of presenters who are better at it than I am, and certainly I've been guilty of a presentation gaffe or two.  (Or five, or thirty-six.)  I'm starting to encounter a lot of the same presentation annoyances lately, though.  Here are some of them:

  1. Starting off answers to questions with phrases like "To tell you the truth...," "Honestly..." or "Truthfully..."

    If you're presenting, and you're answering a question by first telling me that you're about to tell me the truth, it subconsciously makes me wonder about whether or not you've been telling me the truth up to this point.  It also makes me wonder if honesty is a habitual problem for you.  I know that presenters tend to use these phrases as filler while they organize their thoughts, but really - choose something else.  I'd even prefer umms and ahhs to hearing "honestly..."

  2. Using "amount" and "number" incorrectly

    My rule of thumb here is that you use "number" to refer to things you can easily count and "amount" to refer to everything else.  Thus, you can talk about an "amount of ad inventory" or a "number of ad impressions," but not an "amount of impressions."  I know this is minor, but I cringe when people screw this up.

  3. Screwing up plural/singular of certain industry terms

    Many times in the media business, we show syndicated research runs featuring composition indices in order to help back up assertions about the right media vehicles for a particular audience.  (I know - We use indices for other reasons, too.  Bear with me.)  When we refer to these in the singular, we use the word "index."  The plural of that word is "indices."  There is no such thing as a singular "indice" or a plural "indexes."

    People mess this up when it comes to the word "medium," too.  A medium is a channel of communication.  When you talk about multiple channels of communication, use the word "media."  All the usual subject/verb agreement rules apply.  So if you're referring to television, radio and print collectively, don't say "mediums" or "medias."  It's also appropriate to say "Media are..." as opposed to "Media is..." when you're talking about more than one medium.  Yes, there are permissible exceptions, like in colloquial speech when you're really talking about the media business and you just happen to be leaving out that implied word.  But please don't say "mediums."  It hurts my ears.

  4. Starting off answers to questions with meaningless phrases like "Actually...," "At the end of the day...," "Many times...," etc.

    Sometimes, presenters do this to give themselves a couple seconds to organize their thoughts.  Sometimes, they're using hedging language designed to mentally give themselves a fallback if their assertions are challenged.  It makes a more powerful statement if someone says "More moms visit iVillage than visit Oxygen.com" rather than "Many times, more moms visit..."  Don't hedge.  Hedging makes your audience think that you can't back up what you say.

  5. Overly florid language

    Presenters in our business often have a tendency to use a lot of unnecessary language.  Cut to the chase.  "Our users tend to be affluent" works a lot better than "On a household income basis, our unique user base has an index of 125 against household income $150K+."

I don't want to give the impression that I sit in the back of the room grading people on their presentations, or that I'm nitpicking.  None of this stuff really keeps me up at night, and I doubt I'd ever call somebody out publicly for any of the minor annoyances I've listed above.  It just grates on my nerves when people who give presentations don't notice that they've lost half the room because they keep using language that makes them appear less professional.