Publications & Products
Volume 1, Issue 12

Clearing Up Presentation-Speak

Managers should never use the expression "Does that make sense?" during presentations, writes one public speaking expert who notes that it can have negative implications.

Jerry Weissman, a presentations coach, recently wrote in a blog post for the Harvard Business Review that asking if something makes sense during a presentation implies "uncertainty on the part of the speaker about the accuracy or credibility of the content" and introduces "doubt about the ability of the audience to comprehend or appreciate the content."

Instead, Weissman advises speakers to ask "Do you have any questions?" This question, he notes, does not cast doubt on the competence of the presenter or the audience.

Weissman also suggests that presenters avoid the following qualifiers in speeches because they "lessen the importance" and the value of the nouns and verbs that accompany:

  •  "Sort of"
  • "Pretty much"
  • "Kind of"
  • "Basically"
  • "Really"
  • "Actually"
  • "Anyway"

He suggests following the classic advice of William Strunk and E.B. White's The Elements of Style: "Use definite, specific, concrete language."

"To accomplish this, you must diligently delete meaningless words and phrases from your speech, a task easier said than done due to their pervasiveness," Weissman writes. "One way to kick the habit is to capture the narrative of your next presentation with the voice record function on your smart phone, then play it back post mortem and listen to your own speaking pattern. (You're in for a surprise in more ways than one.) You will have to repeat this process several times before you start correcting yourself, but do it you must."

This article is from the Sept. 26, 2011 issue.

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