Master Your Message for Maximum Impact

Your language is so important when you give a presentation. For example, it’s well known that in a presentation of any sort, the following elements carry the weight:

Verbal (the words) 7%

Para verbal (the tone of voice) 38%

Non verbal (the physical behaviour and general appearance) 55%

If words are only 7% of the message, why bother with them? Well, it’s like buying a car. You get sold on the appearance and the “toys.” BUT, the engine better work and it better work really well, or you’re not going very far for very long. Words form the “engine” of your presentation. You won’t get where you want to go without them.

Improper use of words can hurt your credibility. There is a valid argument that if your audience consists of a group who uses improper grammar, you’d better do the same or you won’t be accepted. I don’t disagree with that theory.

Screen shots of two recommended grammar books.However, if you’re speaking to a well-educated business audience, here are some common mistakes to watch for when you prepare:

‘Me,’ ‘Myself’ and ‘I’. Here’s a test. Pick the correct one.

1. Fred and me went to the races on Saturday.

2. Fred and myself went to the races on Saturday.

3. Fred and I went to the races on Saturday.

This one’s pretty easy. It’s 3.

But here’s one I hear really often:

“There was a really big argument between Fred and I.”

Wrong, of course. And ‘myself’ won’t work here either. It has to be ‘me.’

‘Unique.’ More unique; less unique. ‘He is unique.’ There are NO degrees of unique, as one of my fellow Toastmasters reminded me in a speech recently. And everyone IS unique; there are no two people exactly the same. So “He is unique” isn’t telling me anything I don’t already know. ‘Its’ and ‘it’s.’ There is no possessive case for its (it’s). ‘It’s’ means ‘it is.’ Always! No exceptions. When you refer to a year, such as the 1980s, there is no possessive aspect to it, so no apostrophe. Same with ‘a bunch of VCRs.’ I cringe when I see these mistakes on the screen and chances are there’ll be someone just like me in YOUR audience, so don’t do it!

Poor little adverbs – a particular bugaboo of mine at the moment, ‘cause I hear them misused every single day. Don’t forget the LY!

“He treated me bad (ly).”

“That is heaven (ly).”

“He acted strange (ly).”

Well and good. “I feel good.” This actually means that you feel the opposite of evil – a strange statement even if that’s what you mean. Most people mean to say, “I feel well.”

‘Lose’ and ‘loose.’ I’ve seen these switched in national newspaper headlines, so the misuse is fairly prevalent at high levels. Sometimes, it just takes a second read-through, which is a concept that seems lost to those who write for the World Wide Web.

I just completed a project for engineers, whose favorite word seems to be ‘utilize.’ They didn’t use the word ‘use’ once within pages and pages of copy. Here are the definitions:

Use: to put into action or service.

Utilize: to put to use for a specific purpose something not obviously intended for the job.

In some cases, the engineers were correct in the use of ‘utilize,’ but it was the exception.

Watch for words that aren’t words. The airline industry is becoming very good at producing them. Preboard – no such word. Now, when you think about it, what does preboard mean? I understand ‘board.’ If I was asked to preboard, I wouldn’t know what to do.

Words are important. The wrong word at just the right time can be tremendously distracting. And in some cases, you run the risk of inadvertently leaving your audience with the wrong message!

Those Darn Words!

Your language is so important when you give a presentation. For example, it’s well known that in a presentation of any sort, the following elements carry the weight:

Verbal (the words) 7%
Para verbal (the tone of voice) 38%
Non verbal (the physical behaviour and general appearance) 55%

If words are only 7% of the message, why bother with them? Well, it’s like buying a car. You get sold on the appearance and the “toys.” BUT, the engine better work and it better work really well, or you’re not going very far for very long. Words form the “engine” of your presentation. You won’t get where you want to go without them.
Improper use of words can hurt your credibility. There is a valid argument that if your audience consists of a group who uses improper grammar, you’d better do the same or you won’t be accepted. I don’t disagree with that theory. However, if you’re speaking to a well-educated business audience, here are some common mistakes to watch for when you prepare:
‘Me,’ ‘Myself’ and ‘I’. Here’s a test. Pick the correct one.

1. Fred and me went to the races on Saturday.
2. Fred and myself went to the races on Saturday.
3. Fred and I went to the races on Saturday.

This one’s pretty easy. It’s 3.

But here’s one I hear really often:
“There was a really big argument between Fred and I.”
Wrong, of course. And ‘myself’ won’t work here either. It has to be ‘me.’

‘Unique.’ More unique; less unique. ‘He is unique.’ There are NO degrees of unique, as one of my fellow Toastmasters reminded me in a speech recently. And everyone IS unique; there are no two people exactly the same. So “He is unique” isn’t telling me anything I don’t already know. ‘Its’ and ‘it’s.’ There is no possessive case for its (it’s). ‘It’s’ means ‘it is.’ Always! No exceptions. When you refer to a year, such as the 1980s, there is no possessive aspect to it, so no apostrophe. Same with ‘a bunch of VCRs.’ I cringe when I see these mistakes on the screen and chances are there’ll be someone just like me in YOUR audience, so don’t do it!

Poor little adverbs – a particular bugaboo of mine at the moment, ‘cause I hear them misused every single day. Don’t forget the LY!
“He treated me bad (ly).”
“That is heaven (ly).”
“He acted strange (ly).”

Well and good. “I feel good.” This actually means that you feel the opposite of evil – a strange statement even if that’s what you mean. Most people mean to say, “I feel well.”

‘Lose’ and ‘loose.’ I’ve seen these switched in national newspaper headlines, so the misuse is fairly prevalent at high levels. Sometimes, it just takes a second read-through, which is a concept that seems lost to those who write for the World Wide Web.

I just completed a project for engineers, whose favorite word seems to be ‘utilize.’ They didn’t use the word ‘use’ once within pages and pages of copy. Here are the definitions:
Use: to put into action or service.
Utilize: to put to use for a specific purpose something not obviously intended for the job.

In some cases, the engineers were correct in the use of ‘utilize,’ but it was the exception.

Watch for words that aren’t words. The airline industry is becoming very good at producing them. Preboard – no such word. Now, when you think about it, what does preboard mean? I understand ‘board.’ If I was asked to preboard, I wouldn’t know what to do.
Words are important. The wrong word at just the right time can be tremendously distracting. And in some cases, you run the risk of inadvertently leaving your audience with the wrong message!

Leave a Comment