25 Words or Phrases to Avoid in Speeches and Presentations

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

Consultant, Strategist, and Writer


You’re really ready for this speech or presentation, aren’t you?

You have great content—and you know it cold. Your listeners will absolutely benefit from the information you’ll be giving them; in fact, you think it will change their lives for the better. So the last thing you want to do is weaken your message by using language you could just as easily do without.

In the spirit of combining your great message with effective delivery, here are 25 words or phrases you should avoid like the plague (gee, I guess I should have included clichés). Anyway, here they are, each with a brief explanation for their inclusion in this list:

1. “I” or “me”. The presentation is not about you, period. Self-consciousness and anxiety aside, it’s about the audience. Replace every “I” or “me” with “you,” “we,” or “us.” Keep the focus on your listeners rather than you.

2.”A little bit.” This phrase waters down your content. “I’d like to talk a little bit about . . .” pales next to, “Let’s discuss the industry trends we need to consider.”

3.”Just.” Similar to #2. Compare these two options: a) “I just want to say that I think we face some problems”; and b) “Listen! — Our backs are to the wall regarding these profit margins.”

4. “So . . .” Often uttered as the first word out of a speaker’s mouth. (Now you’re thinking back to your last presentation, aren’t you?) But “so” is a continuation of a previous thought. And at the start of your presentation, nothing has come before.

5. “Talk about.” Used repetitively in a monotonous way: “First, I’ll talk about what our competition is doing. Then I’ll talk about why we have to think differently. Then, I’ll talk about our new initiatives.” Then, I’m sure you will all shoot yourselves!

6. “My topic is . . .” To engage listeners immediately, you have to launch your presentation strongly. (See my article on “12 Foolproof Ways to Open a Speech.”) An opening that blandly announces your topic will fail in this respect. What’s engaging about telling people something they already know?

7. “I’ve been asked to speak about.” A variation of #6, and usually an attempt by the speaker to seem important.

8. “Sorry if” or “Sorry for.” Uh-oh. The speaker is apologizing for his or her presentation? “Sorry for this lengthy explanation. I couldn’t figure out a way to say it simply.” Okay, I invented that last sentence—but isn’t that what it sounds like?

9.”Excuse the eye chart.” (Variation: “I know this slide is really busy.”) Boy, haven’t you heard that one before? Here, the speaker actually is apologizing for making a PowerPoint slide incomprehensible. If a presenter can’t speak to everything on a slide in the time he or she shows it, the slide doesn’t work. It needs to be boiled down or broken up into more than one slide, or the speaker needs to tell the audience the full data are in the handout.

10. “I’d like to start out with a story.” A story is one of the flat-out most effective ways to open a speech or presentation. Its effect is considerably weakened, however, if you announce that you’re about to tell a story. I call it “introducing the Introduction.”

11. “There’s a funny joke . . .” Well, there may be. But you’re setting yourself up for failure if it isn’t funny. Zero-sum game and all that. Believe me, if you simply start with the joke, it’ll have much more punch. Even better: use humor rather than a joke. It won’t contain a punch-line, and it’s much easier to relate to your actual topic.

12. “Excuse me if I seem nervous.” Although some people think saying this will get an audience on your side, I think announcing your nerves is a bad idea. Most nervousness isn’t visible. Let the audience make the decision as to whether you look nervous. If they don’t notice it, why give the game away?

13. “I’m not good at public speaking.” Then go away.

14. “I’m not a speaker.” Yes, you are. Aren’t you giving a presentation? Besides, you don’t need to be a speaker unless you’re on the speaking circuit. Just share what you have to say with us. We’ll probably love it.

15. “I’ve never done this before.” You guessed it: this is instant death to your credibility. Again, do a good job and we’ll L-O-V-E you!

16. “Here are our key differentiators.” A fine phrase except for the salient words. This language is so overused that your “key differentiators” in your industry probably aren’t any such thing.

17. “I’ve divided them here into three buckets.” Unless you work on a farm or are planning to kick said bucket as part of the entertainment value of your talk, I would avoid the “buckets” cliché.

18. “Bear with me.” (Not “bare with me,” which would actually be interesting.) Typically said when the speaker is experiencing technical difficulties. We all do, of course. Why not have a back-up plan for keeping your audience interested if the technology doesn’t cooperate? I tell my clients—and I really mean it—that they should be prepared to give their talk if they leave their laptop with their slides in the cab on the way in from the airport.

19. “The next slide shows . . .” Transitions are vital elements of your speech or presentation. They help audience members negotiate the logic of your argument. You need to think about how to organically link your previous talking point with the one you’re about to introduce. Don’t appear to discover yourself what the next topic is when the slide pops onto the screen.

20. “Moving right along . . .” Truly the worst example of throwing one’s hands up in the air because you don’t know how to transition to your next point.

21. “Obstacles!” Or “Projects,” or any single word or phrase that blurts out what you’re about to discuss next. Find that organic transition, per Item #19 above.

22. “I think I’ve bored you enough.” Oh, let’s hope you haven’t bored your audience at all. And if you have, do you have to twist the knife this way?

23. “I didn’t have enough time . . .” Whether what you say after these words is “. . . to prepare,” “. . . to figure out what your needs were,” or “. . . to do the necessary research,” you shouldn’t be clueing your audience in to this startling reality.

24. “I’m running out of time, so I’ll go through this quickly.” It’s probably not a good idea to announce to everyone your lack of time management skills in this presentation, wouldn’t you say?

25. “That’s all I have.” “And so I didn’t give any thought to considering carefully how to end a speech vividly and memorably. So I’ll just jump off this cliff, and take you all with me!”

Do you have any death-dealing words or phrases to add to my list?

LinkedIn Etiquette – How to Use New Endorsement Feature

LinkedIn Etiquette – How to Use New Endorsement Feature

Hey LinkedIn users…Here’s how to use the new endorsement feature and treat people you don’t know.

In 2013, social media will continue to be the main form of online communication and LinkedIn will continue to be the best tool for business professionals. Not long ago, LinkedIn introduced the new profile layout and the endorsement feature, making it easier for people to highlight their skills online and interact with others. Along with the new features, some new questions about LinkedIn etiquette have arisen, so here is some advice for a few common issues.

Endorsement Rules

1. How to treat people who endorsed you?

The new endorsement feature is like a “quick recommendation”; it literately takes seconds for you to endorse someone. You may also receive endorsements from a colleague you know well or even from someone you have only met briefly. Depending on who endorsed you and how well you know the person, your response may be different.
If you get an endorsement from a colleague, the best way to respond is to check his/her skills and endorse back if you see any skills that person truly demonstrates. If you want to be friendlier, you can send a quick note to say, “Thank you for endorsing my _______ skills, I have endorsed you back!
If you get an endorsement from someone you don’t know too well, you can choose to not do anything, or you can also send a quick note say, “Thank you for endorsing my ______ skills, let’s keep in touch!” This might be good opportunity to get reconnected with someone.

2. Who to endorse?

Treat endorsement the same as writing a recommendation letter. Never endorse anyone you don’t know. Try to only endorse someone for a skill that you absolutely know they possess. It is best if you have actually seen them in action!

If someone you don’t know has asked you to endorse him/her, instead of ignoring the request you can send a message asking the person to refresh your memory, and asking which specific skills they would like you to endorse. If you think someone is not qualified, you can always choose to not endorse.

3. Can I ask people to endorse me, and what’s the best way to do it?

If you are looking for valuable input from someone you have worked with, recommendation is more valuable than endorsement as it contains more substantive comments.

Try to not ask for endorsements unless there is a very specific skill you would like the person to endorse. In that case, you can send a message specifying why you need to be endorsed and reminding this person what you have done that demonstrates the skill.

Lastly, remember that the endorsement feature is not a race; it won’t make a huge difference whether you have 5 people endorsing your communication skills or if you have 20 people. What’s important is how your skills are demonstrated through your work experiences.

5 General rules to be successful on LinkedIn:
1.Be personal. Customize personal messages for each connection.
2.Get a real photo. You will need an updated, professional headshot.
3.Be polite and be professional. Treat every message as an in-person conversation.
4.Be honest, never put up skills you don’t have or activities you have not done.
5.Don’t spam. Keep your Twitter on Twitter.