Words that flick the Turn Off Switch

During meetings, whether they’re one-to-one or group gatherings, there are certain words or phrases that make you want to switch off.

If you want to keep your audience switched ON, here are the words/phrases to avoid

1. ‘Presentation’
Unless you’re talking about, say, how to do a presentation, the word ‘presentation’ as in “In this presentation, I shall tell you about…” is a bit of a dampener. Your audience will be preparing themselves for being talked at and bombarded with slides.

2. ‘I’m going to sell you…’
Good selling makes the customer feel like they’ve bought, not that they’ve been sold too. You will rarely think you’ve bought because of a selling technique but of your perceived choice to buy.

3.  ‘I’m going to convince you’
As soon as you say that, your audience is already thinking, ‘No, you’re not!’ Anyway, what convincing do you have to do? Your case should be self-evident or, at least, your belief should shine through.

4. ‘hopefully’
As in, ‘Hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll realise how little these changes will trouble you.’ So, you’re living in hope? Giving the impression of being convinced and convincing is a vital ingredient to winning your audience over. So, drop the ‘hopefully’: it sounds like you’ve got your fingers crossed behind your back!

5. Things/stuff/nice/cool
Even if you are presenting to an audience who have their jeans around their bum cheeks, articulacy is always admired. Other words for ‘things’, for example, can be ‘facets’, ‘elements’, ‘possessions’. ‘Cool’ can be ‘smart’, ‘impressive’, ‘sleek’ or ‘fresh and clean-looking’. Don’t get me started with ‘stuff’ and ‘nice’….just find one of thousands of words that can replace these. (There’s 600,00 words in English so you’ve plenty to choose from…)

6. ‘Myself’ and ‘Yourself’ etc
You use ‘myself’ if: you wash yourself; you go by yourself; you do the work yourself. This is called the ‘reflexive pronoun’.

You do not use it here:
A: How are you?
B: Fine. And yourself?Actually, it’s ‘And you?’

This over-politeness in the English language is a recent tick of the tongue and has manifested in the last decade. Not only is it grammatically wrong but results in stilted, non-conversational language and is on a par with other annoying phrases such as:

7.   ‘Going forward’
Where? Into a black hole?

8.  ‘Thinking out the box’
Usually said by the most ‘in-the-box’ people

9.  Pushing the envelope
Does this mean taking risks? Making the work more challenging? Improving skills? It’s too unspecific to have any real meaning.

10.   ‘But’
I’m not saying that you have to avoid this but…..I was in a meeting and we were introduced to a new manager after a calamitous takeover. The room was bristling with dissatisfaction. He stood up (in a corner) and introduced himself, adding ‘I’m very understanding and I’m here if you need to talk but…(cue: guffaw from the audience)…but if anyone takes the mickey, there’ll be trouble.’ cue: heckles. Could this not have been reworded to ‘…of course, everyone has limits and I know that as a conscientious team, you won’t breach them.’? Use the word ‘but’ judiciously because it tends to weigh more on what comes after it than before in certain situations.

A presentation is a dialogue with one person speaking – at least, most of the time. Just like in a conversation, you need to be aware of the tone of your words, and, as in a conversation, give equal value to sounding natural and articulate (if you need to choose between those two, opt for the second one – just because you can!)

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