Business Presentations – It’s Not What You Say

What are the right words for your business presentation? The ones your audience connects with.

In his best selling book, “Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say – it’s What People Hear” Dr. Frank Luntz shares his insights about picking the right words for your speech or presentation.

As the subtitle of Luntz’s book clearly states: it’s not what you say…it’s what people hear.

Chew on that one.

Your choice of words can make or break your presentation. If your story is filled with corporate buzzwords and industry jargon, you can easily turn people off. Instead of appealing to the hearts and minds of your audience, you can easily sound stale and boring.

And it’s not your presentation. It’s only a poor choice of words.

Our language is constantly changing. In some organizations certain words have taken on a unique meaning that would be invisible to the outsider.

For instance, I worked in one plant facility that had been operating ‘in the red’ for years. Instead of speaking openly about this, what do you think people did? They eliminated all words that used the word ‘red’ – and in addition, they took out anything that had the red color.

If only things were so simple. Eliminating the mention of a problem rarely makes the problem disappear! Instead it tends to reinforce delusion.

In another situation, I was asked to create a training to help new facilitators. I used the classic SWOT analysis to help participants identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

At the break time, the director pulled me aside. “We don’t use the word ‘weaknesses’ here,” she told me in hushed tones. “It implies that individuals are weak!”

Well, instead of SWOT, she chose to eliminate the entire exercise. All to avoid a potentially charged, but critical, discussion.

Shaking your head? Me too.

I just bring these two examples to your attention for one simple reason: pay attention to your audience. Some words seem innocent to you. But these words may be extremely charged to your audience.

What can you do to avoid the possibility of having things blow up in your face? Do a test-run. Show your boss, contact or supervisor your presentation in advance. Allow time for them to make adjustments and give you feedback.

This can help you avoid on-the-spot encounters over words that you never would have thought are culprits!

Most presenters are not psychic mind readers. You don’t know exactly what will set off a reaction for your audience or your director. So, instead of risking poor reviews, make time for your client to preview your presentation.

Remember: it’s not what you say – it’s what people hear. By being proactive, you can help your presentation to have the affect you are looking for.

Develop your presentation skills so you can communicate effectively to your audience. Use the right stories, visuals and words to reach more customers and grow your business. 

Comments are closed.