When you have a presentation to give, do you sit down at the computer and begin to write it? Most people compose their presentation on paper or the screen. Now, the problem with that is that verbal presentations are meant to be heard and not read; and we write differently than we speak.

So, if we are going to write our presentations we must be aware of the difference and write the speech as we would say it ~ which means simple language which is easily understood. So we need to choose the right words.

Choosing words means using the simplest words for the subject. When writing I may say “We anticipate stringent fiscal policies in an endeavour to eliminate burgeoning and rampant expenditure” Sure looks good and it definitely shows that I am educated, and I might get away with it in a written submission. But I would send my listeners to sleep.

What I should have said would be something like “We expect strict economic policies to try and cut out growing expenses.” So cut out the verbiage!

Next, avoid jargon. It may be fine when you are talking to those that have been initiated into the secret, but you cannot depend on the audience being part of the club. It also gives an impression of superiority which can antagonise the audience. Listeners often just block it out and could loose the message. I recall the bemused face of a visitor to my office when I was talking to my clerk, “The information is in the FIN-A3, but you might have a look in FI06. If you can’t find the information get out the DIG Admin just in case”. Acronyms and jargon creates a foreign language – so get rid of them.

Along with jargon, try to avoid euphemisms. These are just dressing up distressing information in pleasant language, or more recently, using ‘politically correct’ language to disguise simple plain facts. I used to be poor, now I am ‘disadvantaged’. My best friend is short, not ‘vertically challenged’. My daughter recently had to ‘participate in a classification device’; – she used to sit a test. Keep the language simple and don’t confuse the issue.

And that means being careful of vague words which modify the message. Words such as ‘slightly’ or ‘rather’ do not add precision to your words. So say precisely what you mean ~ “We have two vacancies in the department” gives exact information, but “The department is rather understaffed.” means what precisely?

Remember that the reason that you get up to give your speech or presentation is to convey something to your audience. If they cannot get what that is, you have failed to communicate,..

Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always speak plainly, for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood” ~ William Penn

… which is what I said.

Michele@ Trischel

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