If you are under 18 (or if you were at one time), please cover your ears as you read this posting.
Let’s talk about naughty words. What words do I mean you say? I’m talking about all of the common ones like $^#!, *&@^, &%$#, and of course &#&@. Just for good measure we should also throw in some of the up-and-coming modern phrases like $&^%$#@!%&.
If you watch TV, go to the movies, listen to top 40 music, or even read books that are on the top seller lists then you are being exposed to what we can call “offensive language” all the time. The big question is if there is so much of this in our daily lives, can we now start to work it into our presentations?
I say that the answer is “no“. I believe that there are several reasons why.
Gene Perret was Bob Hope’s head writer for 12 years and he’s spent a lot of time thinking about the use of street language in comedy and presentations. I agree with a lot of what he has to say.
The #1 reason why presenters should not use offensive language in our presentations is because it is the equivalent of taking the easy way out. Offensive words shock our audience when they hear them. It’s the same as if you zapped them with an electrical charge. However, it’s momentary and then it’s gone. It’s much harder (and more fulfilling) to use non-offensive words to capture and hold their attention.
Here’s an example: once upon a time Winston Churchhill was at a party when a woman who didn’t like him came up to him and said “Winston, if I were your wife, I would poison your tea.” Churchill responded by saying “Well, you can just go $%#@ yourself”. Oh, wait. No he didn’t. Instead, what he said was “Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it.” If he had responded the first way, this incident would have been quickly forgotten. However, because of the words that he did use, it has been remembered to this day.
So the next time you are crafting a speech and you’re tempted to throw in some street language just to to show how hip and cool you are, don’t. Instead spend the time and find a way to instead show your audience how memorable you can be.
Have you ever used street language in one of your presentations? How did it go over? If you could give that presentation again, would you use the same language? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.