The One “Thing” to Avoid
by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
Whether you’re delivering a sales presentation, keynote speech, or report to the board, choose your words carefully to build credibility, sound intelligent, and make your message understood. When you do, you have the power to make your message stick and get quoted from the boardroom to the convention hall.
Never be vague if you want to be believed. Use exact, precise words – words with power and value.
People tune out when they hear weak, overused, catch-all words. The question I most frequently ask my speech coaching clients is, “If it were not a ‘thing’ what would it be?”
A highly educated and intelligent engineer was preparing to speak at a breakout session at his company’s customer meeting. In our coaching session, he said, “There are two things people love about…”. After my question “If it were not a ‘thing’ what would it be?” He replied “innovative upgrades.” My next question was “There are billions of people in the world. Which people love your innovative upgrades?” He replied “systems administrators.”
Can you see the difference of clear, concise communication in his statement that he took to the stage “There are two innovative upgrades that systems administrators love.” This was especially important, as they had customers from 71 different countries. Adding specificity builds your credibility and adds value to what you are saying.
Yet, it’s so easy to get sloppy. For example, you might have even heard more than one professional speaker say, “The most important thing is…”
I coach professional speakers, consultants, coaches, and trainers on their presentation skills and I’m amazed at how often I hear the word “thing.” The one thing you should always avoid when you speak is “thing.” What a fuzzy, flabby, non-specific word!
I was providing mini speech coaching sessions at an event for speakers, consultants, coaches, and trainers and as I noticed the overuse and abuse of the word “thing,” I started to jot down alternatives.
It’s tempting to be lazy with language, but the next time you hear someone – maybe even yourself – use the word “thing,” write out the sentence and find a way to replace “thing” with a stronger and more specific word. You will become more aware of your own word choices and find it easier to speak with precision.
Here’s the list of better choices I quickly brainstormed as I sat in the back of the seminar room. (I’ve alphabetized them for your convenience.)
“The most important _______ is…
Choose your words carefully to build credibility, sound intelligent, and make your message understood.
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“I wanted a super bowl-quality coach, and I was lucky to be introduced to Patricia Fripp. Her help in coaching and scripting was world class. With Patricia Fripp on your team, you can go places.”
– Don Yaeger, Long-Time Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated magazine, Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, New York Times Best-Selling Author
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More to Help You Sound Intelligent
- Do You Sound Intelligent, Powerful, Polished, Articulate & Confident?
- What Do You Really Mean? Specificity Is The Key to Credibility
- Make Better Word Choices – Improve Your Presentation
- Audiences, Prospects & Clients Are Leary of Loose Language
Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.