Should Slang Play A Role In Your Next Speech?

Sure we all use slang to communicate, but during a speech?
Sure we all use slang to communicate, but during a speech?
Image Credit: duncan c

When we think about creating a speech, I sorta suspect that because of the importance of public speaking we all put on our William Shakespeare hats and picture ourselves cranking out prose that will stand the test of time. The reality of life is that with a little luck we’ll do a good job, create a speech that works for the moment in time in which it is given, and then we’ll all go on with our lives. What this means for you is that you can really do anything that you want with your speech – it’s not going to be around for years and years. Perhaps it would be ok if we added some slang to our next speech?

Just Exactly What Is Slang?

So before we get into some long and involved discussion of the pros and cons of using slang in your next speech, perhaps we should take just a moment and make sure that we’ll all on the same page when it comes to understanding just exactly what slang is. There are a number of different definitions out there, but the one that I think captures it best is the one that says that slang is a group of words that are used by the majority of people, but which is not accepted as being good, formal usage of the language by the majority of people.

Nobody is really sure where the word “slang” came from, but a quick scan of the literature shows us that it was being used as early as 1756. One of the things that I don’t think that us modern people really understand is that mankind has been using slang forever. Way back in some of the earliest writings that we have we find examples of slang, it’s in 14th Century English works, and that master of all things written, William Shakespeare also worked it into a number of his works.

This of course does lead us to the question of just exactly why everyone seems to be using so much slang when they communicate. There is probably no one answer to this question; however, there are a number of possible reasons. A key one is that people get bored easily. We all crave both variety and novelty in our lives and in the language that we use to communicate. This is why we are always coming up with new slang words and expressions. Another reason is that slang comes across as being friendly and casual. This is great when we don’t want to sound too stilted.

The Power Of Slang

When we are creating a speech to deliver to an audience, the words that we use to communicate our ideas are very important. We want to be able to get our audience to first understand what we are saying and then to remember it after our speech is over. If we stick to the tried and true words that are an officially accepted part of our vocabulary we might win points from our high school English teachers, but we’re going to miss out on a fantastic opportunity to accomplish what we’re trying to do.

Many of our speeches are given in a business setting. You might not initially think it, but it turns out that slang has a key role to play even in this button-up world. What slang can bring to a business speech is a sense of playfulness that might otherwise be missing. We often make up words and phrases (“death by PowerPoint”) and slide them into our speeches just to capture our audience’s attention and to help them to better remember what we’ve told them.

Slang is almost like poetry – and it doesn’t even have to rhyme! Slang words and phrases are seen as being fresh and new and they tend to create very vivid mental pictures in our audience’s minds. In the world of business, more often than not what will be done is that a new comparison between what’s being discussed and the world of sports is created in order to get a point across. What we all need to understand is that languages can become stale and start to die off. Slang is what keeps them new and fresh and allows them to keep on growing.

What All Of This Means For You

When we think about creating our next speech, rarely do we spend any time thinking about what slang words and phrases we’ll be including in the speech. Instead, we tend to focus on the formal and elegant expressions that we’ll use to share the benefits of public speaking with our audience. However, if we want our audience to remember what we’ve told them, then perhaps we should start to spend some time working more slang into our next speech.

Slang has been with us for a very long time. The reason that people use slang is because it is new and fresh and people like the novelty of it. Slang is also seen as being friendly and casual and this can help us to connect with our audiences. Slang has a role to play in business presentations because it can interject a note of playfulness in what could otherwise be a rather dry speech. Comparisons with sports is a very common way to create business slang. Slang is what keeps a language new and growing.

When you are creating your next speech, spend time thinking about the best way to get your ideas across. Don’t become concerned if you find yourself using slang expressions – this is perfectly ok. Put the slang that everyone is using to good work for you building vivid images in your audience’s head. Slang is always changing, use what’s hot now to make your next speech even better!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

With a little luck, by now we all know that gestures are an important part of any speech that we give. What we do with our arms, hands, face, etc. support the importance of public speaking and can either help or hinder the message that we are delivering to our audience. That’s why it’s so amazing that a lot of us just don’t quite know what to do with our arms when we are speaking. We either don’t use them (bad) or we flap them around wildly (worse). Can anyone tell us just exactly how we can go about making effective gestures?