February 10

So, there’s this presentation, and it starts like this…


In an informal survey from coaching 1000+ sales presentations, care to guess what the most common first word was?   I? We? The? Thank you? (Sorry, that’s two, you’re disqualified!)  Would you be surprised to learn that is in fact  (drum roll please)  “So?”  This tiny two letter word is wildly popular among presenters across the globe and unfortunately, a complete waste of breath.  Why?

Take the test. Which is stronger?

  1. “So, today we’re going to show you how we can help you consolidate your front and back office…

  2. “Today we are going to show you how we can help you consolidate your front and back office…

#1 sounds like the presenter was just picking up in the middle of a conversation they were in the middle of having.  Unfortunately, a conversation that the audience is not privy to.  While “So” may seem ever so (couldn’t resist) harmless, consider how big an impact it can have on your audience:

  1. Conveys lack of confidence. Starting out with a weak filler word  appears weak or indecisive. It does nothing to instill confidence in your audience, or you the presenter.
  2. Creates negative first impression. During those first few seconds of your presentation your audience is formulating their first impression of you and your solution.   While you may have a highly insightful and compelling statement that follows “so,” you have already planted the seed of doubt in your audience’s mind which you must then overcome. Why make it harder on yourself?
  3. Detracts from your objective. I’m going out on a limb and assuming your objective is to grab the attention of your audience. Filler words not only fail to grab attention, and in fact, may sound like a good excuse for listeners to tune out.

No more So! Easy to say, but how do you rid yourself of this attention-stealing thief?

  1. Get aware. Most presenters are shocked…shocked!…to find out that the first word out of their mouth in front of a prospect is “so.”   Not sure if you’re guilty? Tape yourself or ask a colleague to be on the look-out.
  2. Join Toastmasters. They will zap that so right out of yo! While it can be jarring to have a bell go off every time you use a filler word like so, it will increase your awareness and help break you of the habit. No Toastmasters available? Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time you catch yourself using a non-word like “so.” (Not during your actual client presentation, however!)
  3. Know your opening line. Memorize your first sentence, know exactly what that first word is and resist the urge to deviate. A smooth delivery right out of the starting gate will give you a boost of confidence and make it less likely that you will start rambling, which is deadly at the opening of a presentation.
  4. Be bold. So is a habit and a crutch. We often use it to ramp ourselves up to deliver a bolder statement. The problem is that while it may be helping you, it is negatively impacting your audience. The anecdote? Practice jumping in with the big, bad bold statement without any unnecessary preamble. You will feel and sound more direct, your message will be crisper and your audience will be more attentive.   So there!


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