How does Hans Zimmer, the famous film score composer, compose his musical masterpieces? How did he compose Time, the killer theme song of the blockbuster Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio? Did he just spit out notes on his computer? One note, two notes, three notes? Or did he question every single note and every single chord and every single instrument that went into the arrangement?
Do you question every single word and every single phrase and every single expression when you speak in public? Or do you just spit out words?
I do question every single word, every single expression. Here are 10 of my favorite expressions I avoid in public speaking.
Filler sounds are annoying sound bridges connecting one word with another. The problem: Below that bridge there is a raging rhetorical river. Its name? Pause. One of the most powerful “words” you can use as a speaker is the silence. Tear down those annoying sound bridges!
2 Let me tell you a story
How did Michelangelo start with his masterpiece, the naked David? What was the first stroke like? Against this massive 6 meter block of marble? It must have been a huge hammer. But – what about the last three baby strokes? Tic, tac, tac. As a speaker, be like Michelangelo. Take out verbal noise till nothing is left to take away. And meta speech is verbal noise. Instead of saying, Let me tell you a story, say, Eight months ago… . Instead of saying, Let me conlude, conclude. Instead of saying, Let me go back to the beginning, go back to the beginning. No one needs meta speech.
If ethos, our credibility as a speaker, is a pillar, we are world champions in destroying this pillar voluntarily and unnecessarily. Things will always go wrong on stage. But – never ever say sorry. A sorry asks for forgiveness; it drags down your authority, hence ethos.
Good persuasive communication is based on a clear objective, a strong message with robust arguments and 100% relevance for the audience. If you mix all these ingredients, there is no need for begging. Begging is another scratch on your ethos pillar. Instead of saying, “Please sign this petition”, say, “I count on your support and your signature to make this petition a success.”
5 Before I start with my presentation
Another form of meta speech, another ethos killer. Prologues belong to books, not to speeches. Avoid pre-talk statements. Instead, start strong with your first punchy sentence.
6 To be honest
A classic. When people say this one or similar phrases, I always think, You mean, normally you are not honest?
7 My message for you is
Another form of meta speech. But even worse, this is a typical teacher’s phrase. My motto for you is… My message for your is … Like I don’t get it! Cut it out and say the message.
Thinking is not knowing. You can replace any think with expressions like:
- What we have learned is …
- We have seen that …
- I have experienced that …
- What we have proven is …
Believing is bible. You can replace any believe with expressions like the ones from number eight.
Hope is the prolongation of failure. Never hope in public speaking. It’s better to say phrases like:
- I’m convinced that …
- We are absolutely certain that …
- I take it as a given that …
Our everyday jargon is filled with meaningless, weak and ethos destroying expressions. You don’t have to be the Hans Zimmer of public speaking. But I do suggest that you become more conscious about the expressions you use on stage. Because, just like a great movie theme song, you want to make sure that your speeeches sound beautiful.