It’s What and How You Say It that Matters

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Sitting in a courtroom recently giving feedback to the defendant’s team, it occurred to me that we often forget the power of the words we choose in making points.


Several years ago, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus demonstrated this point by comparing the size of juries’ compensation to victims, when the only difference was one word in the testimony. In one case, the cause of the accident was a “broken†window caused by a stone thrown at the car windshield; in the other condition, jurors heard that the window was “smashedâ€. The average difference was an additional award of $10,000 in the latter condition.


Rehearsing to feel comfortable with WHAT you want to say (content) allows you to then drill down on HOW you say it – the use of words, pauses, body language etc. That means focusing on each process separately.


In most presentations, people are listening for concrete information with which to make a decision. Your use of qualifying words, such as “I thinkâ€, “I hope†and “I guessâ€) robs you of persuasion power. Using unnecessary pauses, and “uhs and umsâ€, non-descriptive words, (e.g., “things†and “stuffâ€) and imprecise adjectives (e.g., “greatâ€) does the same. Similarly, using clichés, business jargon and too many acronyms, removes the authentic connection that you need to forge with your audience.


So practice your presentations several times. First, ensure that all needed content is present. Second, eliminate “wastageâ€- material that distracts from making the key point. Third, make sure the presentation is structured in an order which actually facilitates decision-making. People often make decisions based on emotion and logic; we don’t just want a rational reason to proceed, we also need to trust the source – the presenter or the company. Then, check that the words, photos, graphics, communicate their messages with maximum power. Weak words, blurry photos, inappropriate graphics can all sabotage impact.


If you don’t have someone within your network to listen and give you feedback attend a workshop or coaching session with an expert and practice with what you thought was your best (content) presentation! That’s one of the reasons so many of our clients deliver winning presentations!




The lesson is clear: get out of the silos of sales vs. marketing vs. customer service, and listen carefully to customers’ current experiences. If you’re not getting them, then ask for feedback, frequently. Mistakes can happen, as everyone knows; but the sign of a successful company is repairing the damage as fast as possible and ensuring that it’s not repeated. Otherwise , one customer will tell lots of other people – and what was once a Commanding Strategy that could have allowed you to dominate your industry niche will be lost.

Have you had such experiences as a customer or as a business owner? Share with us he experiences and how they were or weren’t resolved. Let’s help the companies that deserve to be winners maintain and grow their potentially sustainable CA rather than lose it.

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