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Creative Word Choices to Energize Your Presentations

Creative words choices are critical when it comes to having an impact on you audience during and after the presentation. Think about what has more impact: “it was bad” or “it was unfortunate.” Even when accounting for context and tone, the second phrase has more impact. Creative word choice is more about what feeling it evokes than the actual words.

Creative Word Choices are Compelling

Most of us don’t really think about the words we use. In a presentation, this is one of most is important parts of the preparation process. Words can help your message or hurt it. Your audience responds to you and your message in different ways based on the words you choose. (Check out other ways to resonate with your audience.)

Avoid Overused Buzzwords

We’ve all heard those words – “Think outside the box” “Synergy” Ugh! You really don’t want to rely on these words in your presentation. Nothing halts the audience’s attention quicker than buzzwords. They make you sound insincere, boring, and unimaginative. Some of these words have become so ingrained in our language we often don’t realize how much we use them. And, does anyone really know what they mean?

Here is a short list to avoid as much as possible. If you want to see more check this list of 119 Worst Business Buzzwords.

  • Best practice
  • Outside the box
  • With the game plan
  • Benchmark
  • Value-added
  • Movers and shakers
  • Big picture
  • Total quality
  • Proactive
  • In the loop
  • Out of the loop
  • Too much on my plate
  • Synergy (or any variant of the word)
  • Incentivize
  • Move the needle

Try Word Pairing to Identify Better Words

Often we get stuck in our own word choices. It can be hard to come up with different words. A good exercise is to do word pairings to see which sounds better. Using a thesaurus can help with this activity. Here is an example:

Happy — Elated

Good — High Quality

Bright — Radiant

Discussion — Debate

Dream — Musing

Great — Expansive

Growing — Flourishing

Be Aware of Hurtful Words

For many of us we’ve learned the hard way words can hurt or have a negative impact. As a presenter, it is your responsibility to show empathy and respect. This is not the place to be overly “creative” with your word choices. Be especially vigilant with words related to gender or ethnic background. For instance, in the USA postal workers who deliver mail are no longer called mailmen but instead called letter carriers.

A quick check with the program planner or a look on a group’s website can give you an idea of identifiers to use. For instance, African-American, black, minority, Hispanic, Asian, pan-Asian, Nordic, Germanic, Indian, American, Native American, Northern, Southern, etc. As a knowledgeable speaker your word choices indicate an educated, careful selection and awareness of any words that may inhibit, hurt, or limit the effect of your message.

Wrap Up

In the end, the creative words you use need to covey depth and substance. Just like buzzwords, a colorful word is meaningless if it isn’t used with sincerity. Being clear on what you’re going to say and approaching your message as a conversation is ultimately more important.

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About the author 


Jennifer has 15+ years of public speaking experience - ranging from groups of 5 to 5000. She draws from her experience as an instructor, academic, and librarian to help others with their presentation skills. When not presenting she loves creating and designing online courses, video, images, slide decks, handouts, conference posters, and infographics.

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