How to Sound Intelligent in a Speech

The One “Thing” to Avoid

by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Patricia Fripp helps you sound intelligent as an Executive Speech Coach and the creator of Fripp Virtual Training.

Patricia Fripp, Executive Speech Coach & Creator of Fripp Virtual Training

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.

If you would like to learn more about how I help engineers, click here. 

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…

approach • assumption • attitude • challenge • commitment • conclusion • condition • consideration • deduction • deliberation • detail • discipline • distraction • element • event • example • exercise • experience • fact • focus • habit • idea • image • inspiration • instruction • lesson • message • method • miracle • moment • necessity • opinion • opportunity • option • organization • paradox • perception • philosophy • practice • precaution • principle • problem • process • program • reason • reflection • routine • safeguard • secret • sentiment • speculation • speech • strategy • tendency • thought • view • way
How many specific words you can you come up with to replace the vague word “thing?” Think about these alternate words, carry them with you, and use them to add precision and power to your presentations and conversations.

Choose your words carefully to build credibility, sound intelligent, and make your message understood.

Fripp Virtual TrainingBecome a great presenter quickly, easily, and cost-effectively on your own schedule. I’m here for you 24/7 through Fripp Virtual Training.

“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

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.

 
  1. Patricia, what a great list. I’ve often had the same challenge when posting tips on my blog. This list not only works for speaking but for writing as well. Thanks for taking time to compile these alternatives!

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