Watch your Language! – Powerful Presentation Language

Hey…Watch your language!

Avoid some of the worst words used in presentations.

Watch your language, an expression that may conjure up an experience you have had of observing a presentation that included stereotypical offensive language…a range of awkward and inappropriate expletives…politically incorrect terms…tasteless jokes…or worse…gender or racial bias.

Well…you are not even close. If you think I’m about to mount my safe presenter soap box and go through meaningless drivel on so called societal bad words…you have another thing coming.

The most offensive words I hear in presentations are so common and at the same time the most offensive to our audiences.

Ugh…the words that come so easily to some of us that…how do I  put this…demean us as presentation experts…successfully annihilate our credibility and dash any hopes that our audience could even begin to believe our opinions on a subject area. Watch for the word ‘believe’ as I enter into my traditional presentation rant.

Here goes, it’s not about the safe language we are so quick to affirm…it’s about the little known offensive language many of us routinely use…when you have a powerful message to deliver, don’t dilute it with milquetoast words. You know the ones – space fillers and a lot about nothing.

Choose your words carefully and above all deliver on your words of promise.

First let’s get one thing straight. When you stand before an audience you have a responsibility to deliver promises with confidence, conviction and honesty. If any of these elements are missing, here’s a tip…JUST SIT BACK DOWN. You will do yourself and your audience a huge favor.

Use assertive language or else!

Let me define assertive language, my take is assertive language is to deliver what your audience wants with clarity and conviction. Aggressive language is getting what you want at someone else’s expense. In the last newsletter I said when it comes to presenting, it’s not about you, and it’s about them. Period!

Top Ten Worst Words or Phrases used in Presentations:

  • Likely will
  • Probably could
  • Maybe
  • Think so
  • I (we) Believe
  • I (we) feel
  • Kind of / sort of
  • Try to
  • Want to
  • Should be

Now, where do I start? Take a look at the list above once again. Those words are frequently sought by attorneys in a court setting. The goal of the defense is to cast doubt, undermine creditability or create suspicion in the argument presented by the prosecution who then take a similar position.
Give me a break!…if a presenter uses these words or phrases in delivering a message, or seeking to gain mutual agreement in a selling situation, inform or educate an audience how successful will they be?
  
Stop casting doubt on your message, product or service.
 
Many of these words are loose qualifiers, to the extent they can damage a presentation to implosion and funny to me, but usually the presenter doesn’t feel a thing and the audience sure does. Earlier I used three words: Confidence, Conviction and Honesty. Loose qualifiers will undermine much of what you say and quickly poke holes in your presentation.
 
Recently, I interviewed several clients on language they hear in presentations and often they refer to several of the words on the top ten list that create doubt for them. The most telling statement from a client after observing a presentation was that she felt even the presenter didn’t believe their own presentation. Point made.
 
Let’s get down to work. The first four on the list:
 
Likely will
Probably could
Maybe
Think so
  
As we add context, look for how positive and definite the statement becomes.
  
Scenario: A presenter is attempting to deliver a message as to how revolutionary their new learning system is. Here’s how it sounds:
 
This new system likely will change learning systems as they are today. When used consistently it will probably shorten an employee’s learning curve by 50% maybe 70%. The system is revolutionary, we think so.   
 
Give it the test now: Confidence, Conviction and Honesty.
 
Give it the test again, this time remove the bolded words. Any difference? I also used the word responsibility. Under no circumstances will simply using assertive language make something true. If what you are saying hints of being a bold claim or hard to believe, then it’s time to give it the test, this time the test is on you.
 
The balance of the Top Ten list:
 
I (we) Believe
I (we) feel
Kind of / sort of
Try to
Want to
Should be
 
I (we) believe or I (we) feel, kind of or sort of. When I hear those words the first thought I have is the presenter’s conviction is right up there with having a hunch, a guess, a hope, a theory. The presenter might as well say to me…who knows….or…I have no idea… or… your guess is as good as mine. Ouch!      
 
Try, want to and should be. The great word offenders I say. How often have you heard a presenter say to an audience any of these?
 
‘I’ll try to go quickly through the next section.’ (and rarely does it go quickly)
 
‘I’ll try to answer your questions as honestly as I can.’ (honesty…I’m thinking that would be nice)
 
‘I’ll try to finish my presentation on time.’ (are you thinking what I’m thinking on that line?)
 
Somehow presenters seem to get away with offensive language
  
My question to you,  would this next presenters language fill you with confidence or would it cast some doubt on the message.
  
Scenario: ‘Hello ladies and gentlemen, we have begun our final descent to our destination today and I’ll try…really try to land the aircraft safely.’ I’m thinking, with that said, fastening our seat belts would have been a great suggestion to throw in there as well!
 
Sure, I’ve cartooned that last scenario for impact and to reinforce how easily we as presenters can fall into the trap of weak, doubt causing language that undermines our presentations and as a reminder of the responsibility we all have to maintain integrity in every word we have to say.  
 
So in your next presentation make sure your choice of words aren’t having your audience glancing up at the ‘Fasten Seat Belts’ sign.


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