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January 28, 2021

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. Read these two phrases and think about which 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 choices are 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. Consciously thinking about creative word choices can improve your presentation in a variety of ways. (Check out other ways to resonate with your audience.)

Avoid Overused Buzzwords

creative word choices - 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.

Do not use buzzword words as your creative word choices. 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 the more out there words actually 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.

Short List of Buzzwords

Best practice

Outside the box

With the game plan



Movers and shakers

Big picture

Total quality


In the loop

Out of the loop

Too much on my plate



Move the needle

Often we get stuck in our own word choices. It can be hard to come up with different words. A good exercise to be better with creative word choices 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

Dream - Musing

Great - Expansive

Growing - Flourishing

creative word choices avoid 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, your creative word choices 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.

In the comments section, share with the community some of your best creative word choices or strategies you use to avoid sounding stale or insincere.

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Jennifer Sharkey is a presentation consultant with 20+ years of experience public speaking and helping others. She draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help new, holistic female coaches master virtual presentations and gain more clients. Her unique immersive program helps her students gain confidence, present engaging content, and tame the tech in 8 weeks (or less).

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