What NOT To Say When You Are Giving A Speech

There are some phrases that you’ll want to avoid when giving a speech
There are some phrases that you’ll want to avoid when giving a speech
Image Credit: Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

Just think about the last time that you sat down to write a speech. The whole world lay out before you. You could include just about anything that you wanted to in your speech in order to share the importance of public speaking with your audience. You were the master of your own destiny. Or were you? Is it possible that every time that we create a speech, there are some things that we should not include in our speech? Things that won’t help us to make our points clear to our audience? If these things exist, what do they look like and how can we avoid them?

What Not To Say

So where do speakers go wrong when they are giving a speech? The mistake that we can make when we are creating our next speech is to make assumptions about what our audience either knows or has experienced. It can be all too easy to assume that something that we’ve done, a place that we’ve been to, or something that we know about is a shared experience with our audience. This may not be the case and if in our speech we make a reference to something that our audience has no knowledge of, then we run the risk of losing them.

What I’m talking about here is phrases. Phrases where we make reference to something that we think that everyone knows about, but which they may not. A great example of something like this would be to say “… and she was acting like Bella in those Twilight movies.” Umm, yes those were very popular movies back in the day, but by no means did everyone see them and enough time has passed that you may have people in your audience who never had a chance to see them in the first place. There is a good chance that this reference is going to fall on deaf ears.

There is a collection of phrases that we are going to want to stay away from. These include such things as “We’ve all seen / done / hear”, “As you undoubtedly know…”, and “As everyone knows”. The reason that you are going to want to say away from using these phrases is because you simply don’t know if your audience has had any of these experiences. Assume that this may be a mistake and it could result in your audience starting to tune you out.

A Better Way Of Saying Things

So if we can agree that making assumptions about what our audience knows is a mistake, then what should we do? The good news here is that the answer to this question is actually quite simple. What we need to do is change how we are phrasing things to our audience. A much better way to state your case is to say things such as “Perhaps you have seen…” or even “As you may know…”.

As speakers we need to understand that this kind of change in the words that we are using can make a big difference. When you rephrase your words this way, you are acknowledging that members of your audience just might not know everything that you know. Your audience is not stupid. You can assume that they know certain facts: who is currently the president of the United States, what happens when you leave the water running for too long, and what happens to food that you leave out for too long.

An even better way to go about sharing information with your audience without making assumptions about what they do or do not know would be to get rid of the phrase “As you know”. Instead, you can provide the needed information as a part of your speech: “Twilight is a movie about teenage vampires who fall in love with mortals” or “Do you know how many glasses of water you should drink every day?” Take the time to anchor your new ideas with something that your audience already knows about and you’ll be able to introduce new material that everyone may not be familiar with.

What All Of This Means For You

When we are creating a speech and we have new information that we want to introduce to our audience, we can easily make a mistake. If make the assumption that our audience has had the same set of experiences that we’ve had, then there is a very good chance that we may end up talking about something that they’ve never heard about and they’ll end up missing out on the benefits of public speaking. We’ve got to come up with a way to prevent this from happening.

The mistake that I see too many speakers making is that we make assumptions about the audience that we are talking to. We believe that just because we’ve had an experience, they must have had the same experience also and so we can reference it during our speech. All too often our audience may not have had the same experience that we had and our reference will go over their heads and we’ll start to lose them. We want to stay away from phrases that start with “We’ve all seen…” and “As everyone knows…” because both of these may be untrue. We can solve this problem by changing the phrases that we use. We can say things such as “Perhaps you have seen…” or even “As you may know…”. We can make assumptions that our audiences know basic facts, but not shared experiences. Speakers can drop the “As you know” phrase and just include needed information in the body of their speech.

The good news about our audiences is that generally speaking they are quite smart. However, they’ve had a different set of experiences than we have had. This means that during our speech, we can’t reference things that only we may have knowledge of. Instead, we need to change the way that we refer to events and things so that the members of our audience who don’t know about it won’t feel as though we are leaving them out of our speech.

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

Question For You: What’s the best way to determine if an audience will know about something that you are referencing?

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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 www.Toastmasters.org. 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

Any time that we give a speech, we want to find a way to ensure that that our speech makes an impact on our audience. We want to be able to use the importance of public speaking to capture our audience’s imagination, have them pay attention to what we are saying, and with a little luck decide to take action based on what we’ve told them when we are done speaking. What this means is that we’ve got to find a way to connect with them in a way that will really get them fired up. It turns out that we have a tool that we can use that will allow us to do this. It’s called a story.