September 24

Are These Words Sabotaging your Presentation?


I was excited to see one of my students present a powerful new software solution in a recent workshop.  Susan (not her real name) is a smart, professional salesperson who is passionate about what she does. She presented herself well, the presentation was well-organized and tailored to the needs of the customer.

So why was the reaction around the room a collective “Ho hum” after Susan finished?

Instead of sounding confident and excited about her solution, Susan came across as vague, uncertain and, at times, even apologetic.  Susan sabotaged her presentation with a mere handful of words. I’ve identified a few of the offenders below.

Words that Sabotage:

  • I’d just like to take a minute to summarize what we talked about…
  • I think that this may be a good fit for you.
  • This sort of shows you where you’re losing inventory …
  • I hope that you’ve seen some things you’ve liked…
  • I’m sorry we weren’t able to get to some of your questions…

How Weak Words Can Sabotage Your Presentation:

No one sets out to sabotage their own presentation.  But a desire to temper or soften bold statements in order to avoid sounding aggressive or arrogant can override the best laid plans.  Fear of committing to a position and potentially being wrong can also lead to vague and uncertain language.  While this self-sabotage occurs more frequently among women, regardless of gender the results are the same:  an audience who is unimpressed, uncertain, and unconvinced.

Replace Weak Words with Power Words:

To rid yourself of this type of sabotage you need to: 1) Be aware of the weak words you are using. 2) Understand the impact those words have on your audience, and 3) replace them with power words.
For example, let’s look at how we would do that with Susan’s sabotaging words:

  1. I’d just like to take a minute to summarize what we talked about…
    I’d just like to
    If you’d like to do something, why not just do it? The word “just” diminishes the importance of everything that comes after it and sounds as if you’re apologizing for it in advance. When you have something of value to say (like reviewing what you spoke about last time), there is no need to apologize.  “Just” say it!
    Better: Let’s quickly review what we talked about last week…”
  2. I think that this may be a good fit for you.

    Most of what comes out of your mouth is your opinion already so why preface it with “I think?” It’s redundant and it sounds like you are hedging your bets.  Commit to a point of view.  Could you be wrong?  Certainly. But if you have done your research and have the customer’s best interests at heart get off the fence! (Unless that’s where you want your customer to stay!)
      Based on what you shared with us, this would be a great fit for you.
  3. You can kind of see here where you’re losing inventory…
    kind of
    Can you “kind of” see it – or can you really see it? You may have grown up learning to downplay your gifts or achievements, but that false humility doesn’t serve you in business. Vague or dismissive words lessen the power of your solution. Use specific and clear language whenever possible.

    This report shows you precisely where you’re losing inventory…
  4. I hope that you’ve seen some things you’ve liked…sa
    Ah, closing with a wish and a prayer!  Often salespeople use the word “hope” to avoid asking the tough questions and finding out what the customer really thinks.  If you’ve presented your solution well, you have nothing to lose – and much to gain – by asking the customer to share his opinion.  If it’s positive, it’s great reinforcement for the customer to hear himself say it. And if it’s negative?  That’s valuable information and better to find out right away so you can address it.
      What have you seen that you liked today?
  1. I’m sorry we weren’t able to get to some of your questions…
    I’m sorry
    Don’t be so quick to apologize.  It’s often disempowering, sometimes insincere, and potentially annoying – especially when it becomes chronic.  See Lori Richardson’s great article “I stopped saying I am sorry and you might want to too.”  Limit your apologies to only those things you can control or try turning an apology into a positive.
      “That was a great discussion!  Let’s plan a follow up call so we can cover the questions our time didn’t allow us to get to today.”

Take ownership of your ideas and the words you use to express them.  Stop sabotaging yourself by eliminating weak words from your vocabulary – and watch your audience’s confidence in you and your solution soar!



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  1. Great insights for sales people. A
    closer understands that words are
    orphans until they have a context with the person you are pitching..A
    mastermind asset is a sniper that sets up the kill shot by overcoming
    objections and giving the client
    permisson to empower them to

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