Are You a Conference Speaker Douchebag?

This weekend I’ll be speaking about Effective Social Media Techniques at the Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas with fellow panelists Andrew Wee, Keith Plocek and Brett Tabke. As you know, Shoe will also be in attendance to speak about Killer Facebook Advertising Tactics (sans Dennis Yu, it appears). If you’re attending, come bug me so I can meet new industry folks and collect some business cards in my ongoing quest to clone my own army of Internet marketers and make them follow me around and break into spontaneous yet impeccably choreographed dance sequences. (It’ll be like an Entourage/Thriller hybrid.)

I’ve spoken at my fair share of conferences over the past few years, and Shoe has spoken at countless more. We’ve presented with loads of different people — some good, some bad, and some that make you think, “How the hell did this person get approved to speak?” I decided to compile my memories of the bad speakers to come up with a Presenter Hall of Shame. Below are some unfortunate traits of a douchebag speaker, so keep your eye out for these types at the Affiliate Summit or any other conference you may be attending in the near future.

  1. You use the same presentation and case studies over and over again. I’m fine with recycling a slide deck once or twice, but I’ve seen speakers who have shared the exact same presentation with the exact same case studies and the exact same stale, unfunny jokes four or five conferences in a row. While much of the audience may think the content is new and fresh, repeat attendees and bloggers covering the event may start to think of you as a one-trick pony. As our industry evolves, so too must your presentation. Even if you’re just speaking on fundamentals, change it up every now and then.
  2. Your presentation is one giant ad for you and your services. Nobody’s come here to listen to you pimp yourself out — everyone is more interested in the session topic. If all you’re doing is shilling your company or talking about a tool that has nothing to do with the panel, people will think you’re wasting their time. If someone wanted to learn more about you or your company, he/she’d have gone to your website or contacted you privately, not paid a couple grand to travel to and attend an industry conference.
  3. You cut into other speakers’ presentation times. Going over your allotted time by a few seconds or a minute isn’t a big deal, but one time I saw someone speaking, glance at the red flashing light that signals you to stop, and completely disregard it, electing instead to drone on for another several minutes while the other panelists looked increasingly pissed off and the moderator squirmed uncomfortably. If your time is winding down but you’ve got a lot left to talk about, skip some slides and adapt somehow. If your presentation is pants-crappingly good, just offer to put it on your website so attendees can download the rest of it, or have them email you for the last final awesome tidbits.
  4. You’re rude to your panelists when the spotlight isn’t on you. Lately when I go to a conference, I see a lot of speakers who, as soon as they finish their presentation, sit down, whip out their phone and start emailing, texting or tweeting, totally disregarding and ignoring the next speaker who’s presenting. How hard is it to sit quietly and politely while someone else talks for 10 minutes? You don’t even have to actually be listening — just throw in the occasional nod and make the “Ah, I didn’t know that” face while you zone out until Q&A starts. I’ve also been on a panel where speakers have shown up late, loudly entering partway through the session and clumsily making their way to the stage, or when someone who’s spoken randomly leaves during another person’s presentation and comes back five minutes later with a bag of snacks to eat (this actually happened). Come on, people, act like a professional for one GD hour. Those gin and tonics will be waiting for you at the end of the day.
  5. You have to answer EVERY single question in Q&A. It doesn’t matter if one or two speakers gave eloquent, well-crafted responses to a question — some people just need to add their $.02, even if they’re just rehashing what other panelists have already said. You don’t have to contribute your input to every query in order to seem like an expert. It’s better to offer up insightful answers or help out with a tough question than to reword the same answer in your own way. Better yet was when I was speaking on a panel with four people and had to share a microphone with the person sitting next to me. I literally got Kanye Wested on two different occasions where I started to answer someone’s question and the person sitting next to me fidgeted impatiently before ripping the microphone towards them so they could cut me off and add their inane response. How very professional!

What other douchey things have you seen speakers/presenters do at industry events? Drop your comments below, and if you’re attending the Affiliate Summit this weekend, I’d love to grab a drink and talk shop so tweet at me or email (rkelley -at- if you’ll be Vegas-in’ it up.

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