things to avoid saying when presenting - Speaking Edge

6 Things to avoid saying when presenting

Whether you are speaking to one person or to many, every aspect of your communication counts.

Your body language, tone of voice, what you say and how you say it all contribute to your overall message. 

Certain words and phrases are almost guaranteed to switch others off. And yet, I hear them time and time again in presentations.

Here are some examples of phrases to cut from your presentations...


Great communicators choose their words carefully 

Let's be honest, we have all sat through presentations that are, how shall I say, "less than inspirational".

Such presentations are delivered every day, in every office throughout the country. Most of them are quickly forgotten. Yes, even yours!

Even amongst confident speakers, I tend to see the same presentation mistakes made repeatedly. 

If you want your message to stand out, to make a real impact, to persuade and influence your audience, your words count.

Some words and phrases should be avoided at all costs.

Here's a sample of some of the worst phrases to cut out of your presentations. 

"I am just going to talk you through some slides that I've put together"

This is an all too frequent opening to a presentation. I'll bet you've heard this many times.

Using this style of opening sends a clear message that is hardly inspiring to your audience. In fact, you're inviting your listeners to switch off.

You wouldn't open a sales pitch with "I've got a few product brochures to show you" (Have a look here if you are selling this way!) so why open a presentation in a similar vein. You are, after all, trying to sell your ideas to your audience.

Such a dull opening doesn't address the all important question that all of your listeners are asking "Why is this important to me?"

To make an impact, start by clearly demonstrating why your audience should listen and how they will benefit.

Your opening should develop a sense of intrigue, ensuring your audience are hungry for more. Do that and you create a platform for success.

"I haven't had much time to prepare for this..."

Start with a version of this and you are telling me that this is going to be arduous. 

Failure to prepare is disrespectful to your audience. If you haven't bothered to invest time in your presentation, why should your listeners?

Of course, we are all busy. You may not have had time to prepare fully. Why signpost this to your audience? It has no upside.

At the very least, prepare your opening so you get off to a strong start. It's the least your audience deserves, particularly if you would like them to pay attention.

"You probably can't read this slide very well, but..."

If we can't read it and understand it, why are you using it?

This often comes as a consequence of two things.

First, an over reliance on slides to prepare your presentation. This often results in very detailed visuals, packed with endless bullet points.

Second, the slide is easy to see when your designing it on a screen that is 50cm or so away. It doesn't always follow that it will be so easy when you sit 10 metres away, even on a bigger screen.

Slides, if you have to use them, should aid and support your presentation. This is rarely achieved with busy slides and certainly not when your audience can't make out the detail. 

Less is more when it comes to visual aids. Testing your slides from the back of a room always reaps benefits.

If it doesn't work on a slide and you really feel the information is necessary,  try a handout for each participant that you walk through step by step. It has the added benefit of getting your listeners active and involved in your topic.

"Let me explain what this graph is trying to show..."

If your slides need explanation, you should question whether they add any value.

Usually, this comes from using very detailed graphs where too many pieces of data are compared.

Such statements are usually followed by the speaker turning to the screen and explaining the various colour coding and trends that are displayed. Talking to the screen and not the audience is not the most endearing approach.

Again, talking through a handout is a better route.

Alternatively, consider the key message that you are making at this point in your presentation. Invariably, you can cut the amount of data right down and illustrate your point far more robustly.

Remember, pictures paint a thousand words. They're so much more engaging for your audience.

"Sorry, I'm overrunning, but let me just quickly go through my last 16 slides."

To expect your audience to pay any attention once you're past your allotted time is optimistic. Let alone remember anything you say after this point.

Oh, and they don't believe you'll be quick either meaning you're losing credibility.

Again, this comes as a result of an over reliance on slides. This is always dangerous.

If you're well prepared, you will know how long you're presentation is going to last. 

Sure, questions and discussions can mean you run short of time. But, a well prepared speaker understands the key message of their presentation and that will have taken priority, not left until the end.

"I'm sorry, we seem to be having some technology issues."

Nothing that some advance preparation isn't going to solve.

Of course, sometimes there are some unavoidable issues with technology. 

I've lost count of the number of times I've been assured of adequate facilities, wi-fi etc at a venue only to be disappointed when I arrive.

All too often, it seems that many speakers are rendered speechless without their laptops and slide deck.

The best speakers are prepared for every eventuality. This means they will be able to deliver their presentation without power-point. Imagine that!!

Many of these examples are said by speakers with good intentions. Perhaps they are choosing to overlook the impact of their choice of words. 

The key point here is that if you want your message to stick, if you want it to be well received by an attentive audience, you want everything working in your favour.

Phrases that weaken your message or risk your audience tuning out, make presenting an uphill task.

Great communicators inspire their teams, persuasively pitch their ideas and motivate others into action. Your thoughts and ideas will only succeed if you can engage and persuade others. To do this you need to keep their attention with positive, visionary and robust language.

You can read more about powerful words that will persuade your audience here.

About the Author Paul Lucas

For over 20 years, I’ve been helping leaders, managers and sales teams get better results by improving their communication and influencing skills. My training is founded upon extensive research and analysis. Helping you to understand the specific behaviours, techniques and strategies of the world’s best speakers and influencers provides the platform to transform your presentations and sales skills.

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1 comment
Kate says January 29, 2019

Definitely food for thought, thanks Paul. I’ve also heard “I’ll try not to bore you” and “I won’t take up too much of your time” as openers. Not ideal!

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