Even though we realize the impact that tone of voice, body language and visuals all have on your presentation outcomes, never forget that Content Still Rules in audience-centric presentations … and the words you use deliver that content.
Before sharing some ‘Best Practices’ in future articles to help you Harness the Power of Words, let’s discuss some of my favorite ‘Worst Practices’ – the poor choices we often make and why we make them. Tpyically, my executive coaching clients fall victim to three flaws affecting the words they use … and don’t use.
- Our written language is different from our spoken version, a subtly different structure and style. It’s like the difference between a newspaper story and a radio news story about the same topic. It’s difficult to speak conversationally the way we write, but presenters unconsciously try to do that.
- Ironically, a subtitle for my business writing workshops is often ‘Write Like You Talk’, stressing the need for simplicity and conversational style even with the written word in the workplace. Conversely, a subtitle for my presentation workshops could be ‘Don’t Talk Like You Write’ – I’ll have to start using that one. Everyone is busier than ever, doing more with less. It’s so easy to simply go with the first word you can think of or the word you usually think of. And that’s been good enough all these years, hasn’t it? It takes a rare blend of awareness, commitment and time to go beyond those choices to find the best word you can think of.
- Our words reflect our personalities, our values, often our view of our own self-worth. Depending on our education and background, we may still be fond of the more formal, complicated and flowery vocabulary we had to learn in school. We may be consciously or unconsciously motivated to write to impress, to flaunt, and even to intimidate. That style can easily show up when we speak.
If I’m hitting a nerve here – great. No need to thank me. That’s my job … and my pleasure. If you see yourself reflected in some of the above points – and are willing to do something about it – please read on. If not, don’t. Just accept the reality of the old adage that warns ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you always gotten.’ If that works for you, it works for me, too.
So, let’s benefit from some lessons learned on the journey towards audience-centricity. This time, about WordPower, because the words you use do make a difference. A big difference. In subsequent articles, we’ll discuss using words that are short, familiar, specific, consistent, active, powerful and personal. We’ll use them to forge a more contemporary and conversational style with simple sentences and paragraphs that clearly and consistently convey your message to your audience.
Until then, try to raise your own word use awareness. Review past presentation texts, outlines, handouts or slides. Look for your habits, especially those you’d consider changing … and begin to Harness the Power of Words.