As public speakers, we all know the importance of public speaking. The one tool that we all have to work with is our choice of what words we want to speak. Even more important than any presentation tips is the choice that we have in choosing a wide variety of both words and phrases that we can use in our next speech. It turns out that we can make good word choices that help us get our message across to our audience or we can make bad choices that cause our audience use their listening skills to tune us out. When we use a cliché, we’re doing a bit of both…
What Is A Cliché And Why Is It Good / Bad
Before we go throwing stones at the way that you’ve been using words in your speeches, perhaps we should spend just a few moments making sure that we all understand just exactly what a cliché is.
A cliché is a group of words that is used to communicate a popular or common thought or idea. You’ve heard hundreds of these before. A few examples include “talk is cheap”, “it’s now or never”, “don’t cry over spilled milk”, etc.
Simply by becoming a cliché this collection of words or phrases has become overused, and that’s the problem. When you use a cliché, you are throwing out a phrase that your audience will instantly recognize. In some cases this can be a good thing – it will put your audience at ease because, just like a warm familiar blanket, it’s something that they recognize. However, at the same time if you overdo it and use too many clichés you run the risk of boring your audience and causing them to tune you out.
How Speakers Can Avoid Overusing Clichés
Ok, let’s say that you may be a cliché abuser. What’s a speaker to do?
The first thing that needs to be done is that you need to recognize that you have a problem (“hello, my name is Jim and I’m a cliché abuser…”). After doing that, you need to take steps to replace the clichés that you are using with other words and phrases that are not clichés.
You need to realize that you are probably using clichés simply because they are so familiar. You need to find new things to say in their place. One immediate step that you can take is to get out your thesaurus and look up other ways of saying the same thing.
One of the biggest problems that most speakers have in reducing or eliminating the number of clichés that we use is that all too often we are not aware of how many of these guys are working their way into our speeches. That’s where a friend or confidant can come in handy.
Having someone listen to your speech and note each cliché that you use can be a real eye opener. I know that when I had a friend do this for me, I discovered that even after I thought that I had removed all of my overused clichés I still ended up using 15 of them.
If you don’t have a friend who can help you do this, another way to accomplish the same thing is to video tape yourself giving the speech. It can be hard to listen to yourself talking closely enough to pick out all of the clichés, but it’s well worth the effort!
What All Of This Means To You
Words are indeed a powerful tool that speakers have at their disposal. Sprinkled among the words and phrases that we use are clichés – well-worn phrases that our audience will recognize instantly. Used properly they can connect us with our audience and let us maximize the benefits of public speaking, used too much and they’ll drive our audience away from us.
Once you realize that you are using too many clichés, you need to take steps to replace these over-used phrases in your speeches. Tools such as a thesaurus can come to your aid in these types of situations.
Taking your speaking skills to the next level where you start to really study the words that you are using is the mark of a gifted speaker. By trimming the words that are not being effective from your next speech, you’ll be able to hone your message and ensure that you make more of an impact and end up changing the lives of everyone who is in your audience.
Question For You: How many clichés do you think a speaker should feel comfortable using in a 30-minute speech?
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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
Going to the effort to prepare and deliver a speech is a big deal. As long as you are going to make the effort to do all of this, you sure want your audience to get the most out of your speech – you want to change lives (that’s one of the benefits of public speaking)! No matter how well you dress or how clever your speech is, if your voice isn’t something that your audience wants to listen to, you won’t be able to make an impression on anyone no matter how good their listening skills are…