Honestly Speaking…

How wimpy language ruins a presentation

What makes a speaker command a room? It’s a combination of factors, but to dispute an old adage, it’s not only how you say it, but also what you say. The words and phrases that explain and outline your message are vital. They not only impact your audience but also create credibility and generate buy-in.

It’s why Mark Wiskup, communications expert and author of Presentation S.O.S.: From Perspiration to Persuasion in 9 Easy Steps (Warner Business Books; $13.95) warns against using “wimpy” language-words and phrases that suggest the presenter is not comfortable or sure of his intentions or his message.

This, says Wiskup, occurs when presenters have not properly prepared or rehearsed their speech. They include what he calls the integrity trio: “probably,” “sort of,” and “pretty much.” Add to this list any use of “honestly,” “frankly,” or “to tell you the truth.” The word “basically” suggests the need to simplify because the group can’t keep up.

According to a Microsoft PowerPoint poll, only 38% of 750 professionals polled said they rehearsed for their presentations. More than three-quarters agreed, however, that rehearsing would have improved their presentations, and a little more than a quarter thought their presentations were ineffective-even a waste of time.

“Clients want to see that you understand their market, their business, and how they operate. So it’s important that while presenting you are making a strong case,” says Robert Monroe, vice president of marketing for 3rd Edge Communications, an award-winning communications firm in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“If you use words that leave too much room for interpretation or make it seem as though you don’t know what you’re doing, the client who’s looking for your assistance will lose confidence in what you’re saying and in you,” says Monroe.

Some presenters use evasive words to avoid being seen as too direct or too bold, but Wiskup considers that a risky assumption. He notes: “When I asked my wife to marry me, I did not say, ‘I want to marry you-as far as I know.’ In the same vein, your audience wants you to be strong and direct. It doesn’t mean they’re going to agree with you. What it means is they’re going to actually listen to you and consider what you say, which is a victory.”

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