Words That Don’t Work In Presentations

WORDS THAT DON’T WORK IN PRESENTATIONS Women have it hard enough as it is fighting the stereotypes of corporate leadership. Recent research published in the Harvard Business Review showed that:

‘leaders who use humour are able to increase their employees’ performance and job satisfaction. . . However, women may actually be harmed by using humour at work.’

What! As someone who makes a living out of speaking in business AND USING HUMOUR I guess I know something about the topic and feel we may undermine an otherwise superb performance through some basic misdirections.


In this blog I will be sharing with you what not to say in your crucial communications, because in my years of experience these words and phrases can unknowingly sabotage your performance.

We all know that stories are great tools for engaging the imagination of your listeners and illustrating your point in a memorable way! However, what’s preposterous is the number of times I see women segue by announcing in the most literal fashion what we are about to do. For example, “let me tell you a story” or “there’s this joke about” … Heard it before? Don’t do that! Not only are you setting yourself up for failure if your story flops, but you are giving away the key element to what makes it such a useful device! It’s the mystery, allure, adventure and intrigue which makes one eager to listen, so next time you enhance your message with a bit of storytelling (and by all means, please do!), don’t spoil it. Jump right in and take them along for an immersive ride. 

As the speaker in any presentation, you are being gifted an unbelievably valuable commodity which you must be incredibly careful not to squander! What is it? The undivided attention of your audience. Unlike posting to social media or appearing on television where you can be skipped in favour of that which is more entertaining, this short window where you can make your first impression and have a person’s physical presence and intent to listen is incredibly powerful. Now, how often have you been in a communication only to zone out in a matter of milliseconds once the other person goes on and on about themselves and you discover that there’s nothing in it for you. Too often, exactly? Don’t do that! Many speakers push their audience to tune out by saying “I” or “me” again and again and failing to focus their presentation on what the audience craves, takeaways that will make them more successful. By speaking, you are serving. They aren’t there for you. They show up because of what you can do for them. Keep that in mind and your ego in check!

Apologies are another criminal behaviour. Whether saying “sorry” or using too much self-deprecating humour to explain away anxiety, nervousness, technical difficulties, poor time management, or anything else, do not expose a wound the audience does not need, care or want to hear about. It doesn’t help them, and only loses you any authority and credibility you might have built up in their eyes, which in turn severely dilutes the effect of your message.

While I could go on all day about the things, we do to unwittingly self-sabotage, I hope this blog gives you enough of a glimpse to avoid these pitfalls and give greater presentations when it matters most in your career. If you are wanting to ‘step up’ in your career, and learn valuable presentation skills, then book your free 15-minute discovery call!

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About Me

Dr Louise Mahler is a body language expert. With a focus on study of the mind-body relationship and business applications; providing practical inspiring improvement to global leaders.

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