Trends in the Industry

7 Phrases to Eliminate From Your Presentations Right Now

By Rob Biesenbach

There are certain phrases speakers use that set off alarm bells in my head. They signal a lack of preparation, audience focus or commitment to the opportunity.

And it is an opportunity. You have a room full of people who came to hear what you have to say and are hoping that it will change their world in some way. Don’t squander it!

So if you want to keep people from tuning out (or heading for the nearest exit), then eliminate these phrases from your talk.

1. “Is this thing on? Can you hear me?”

Wait, are you telling me that you didn’t arrive an hour early and test out the audio ahead of time? What else did you fail to do?

Is your video going to buffer endlessly? Is the screen going to malfunction? Have you checked all your facts?

It may seem like a small detail, but it’s the kind of thing that — together with other rookie mistakes — slowly chips away at your credibility.

2. “I just threw this together.”

Really? Then why are you wasting our time?

Step away from the podium and let us read our phones without the distraction of you talking in the background.

The same goes for phrases like, “I’m really tired,” “I’m not feeling well” and “My dog ate my PowerPoint.”

But seriously, respect us, respect the material and respect the process. Don’t dig yourself a hole by undermining your authority from the start.

3. “Let me tell you about myself.”

No, don’t. Tell me instead about what you can do for me. That’s all any audience wants.

I once saw a presenter spend the first 10 minutes of a 50-minute presentation walking us through every detail of his career history.

Hey, buddy, you don’t have to prove your worth to us — you’ve already got the gig! That’s why you’re standing up there and we’re sitting out here. We assume that you’re the expert.

Now dazzle us with your knowledge, not your résumé.

4. “You can’t read this in back.”

I’ve got news for you: The view up front ain’t so great, either. I actually envy the people in back — all they see is a calm sea of gray. Me? That overwhelming jumble of words makes me feel like I’ve stepped into a larger-than-life Wikipedia page.

We didn’t come here to read; we came here to watch. And while we’re reading your slides, we’re not listening to you. And vice versa. See the problem? The message gets muddled.

So replace those words with evocative images. And if you need the words for a script, then we have even bigger problems.

5. “This chart shows…”

Remember the episode of “Friends” where Joey is at an audition and accidentally reads the words “long pause”? That’s what’s known as a stage direction. It’s not meant to be read aloud.

But speakers do this all the time: “This chart shows,” “Here’s a quote,” “On this slide you’ll see…”

We already know it’s a chart, a quote and a slide. You don’t have to tell us!

But imagine instead if you said, “Our campaign has directly contributed to a 30 percent increase in engagement,” while the slide behind you shows a simple graph illustrating the point.

Show; don’t tell.

6. “I’d like to tell you a story.”

Good, I love stories. They’re the most powerful part of any presentation.

But you don’t have to warn us in advance. Humans are conditioned to stories from practically the moment we’re born. We can see them coming from a mile away.

So just launch right into it: “There I was, standing on the street corner, in my pajamas…”

And whatever you do, don’t start by telling us what the story is about. If we can’t figure out the point of your story from the story itself, then the narrative needs some adjustments.

7. “Any questions?”

None that I can think of. Like most audience members, I’m only half paying attention anyway. Also I’m tired, I’m wondering what’s for lunch and I don’t feel like doing any abstract thinking right now.

Make it easy on us. Ask a leading question like, “Who’s had an experience like this that they’d like to share?” or “What are your biggest concerns about what I’ve presented?”


It’s all about the audience.

Presentations are hard work. With the rise of TED Talks, audience expectations are sky-high, and we all have a world of easy distraction at our fingertips.

Think first of us. Focus on our needs. Cut the clutter and prepare, prepare, prepare. Do those things and you’ll have a much better chance of success.

7 Things I’ve Learned from Developing Social Media Content for a Federal Stats Agency

Cedric Brown, APR

Admit it: when you log on to your social media every day, the last thing you’re looking forward to is seeing content from a federal statistical agency. And who could blame you? It doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as content from your favorite celebrity, sports team, or public figure.

But look at the Facebook and Twitter pages for our client, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP, also known as The Nation’s Report Card) and maybe you’ll ask yourself: Why have I not been following NAEP?

Developing the social media content for NAEP has been an interesting experience during my time at Hager Sharp. By setting the groundwork for content monthly and reporting on its metrics, I’ve been able to gather some insights on what works—and what doesn’t. To my surprise, much of what I’ve learned goes against some of the traditional norms preached by social media “experts.” Maybe it’s due to the nature of NAEP’s audience—researchers and educators—but there are some things that could be applied to other types of audiences too.

Here are seven insights you might consider for your own social strategies:

  1. Get clever with memes and GIFs.Sometimes the best way to make a good impression is to make someone smile. With NAEP, we have learned to do this through use of memes and GIFs, which when effective, are great for earning link clicks towards items and results.
  2. Load up on the image text.There’s a familiar saying that “less is more” when it comes to a lot of things; however, for NAEP that’s not always been the case. Twice this year we’ve shared some text-heavy tablescharts, and infographics describing NAEP’s assessment process. The result: image clicks. Of course, we have an audience that’s largely familiar with data and research. It’s all part of our strategy of bringing NAEP item contents in a more visually-appealing way, leading to link clicks which count towards engagement metrics.
  3. Weekends are great for long-form content.If you have a video, lengthy article, or detailed infographic to share, chances are you might get the most value out of it if you post on the weekends. We have learned this by sharing videos from NAEP’s social media accounts on the days where followers may not be as preoccupied and have an extra minute to spare learning more about NAEP’s work.
  4. Don’t underestimate photos of people; they go a long way.While it’s true that livestream videos have been all the rage lately, don’t forget that sometimes pictures will do the trick just the same. The reason for this is two-fold: first, people love seeing people they know; and second, people love putting a face to a brand or organization. Use pictures to help build that personal connection with your followers.
  5. Share other’s content, but don’t forget to tag them.If your organization’s goals include thought leadership, it’s tough to get there by just posting content about yourself. Through managing NAEP’s social media accounts, we have learned that sharing others’ content helps in the long run by increasing our reach to new followers; especially when the content is useful to them. Because when you tag an organization’s social media handle, it appears in their notifications and on their timeline to followers.
  6. Encourage competition.Whether they admit it or not, everyone loves the feeling of being better than someone. The same holds true when sharing NAEP’s state results. Not only do people want to know if their state’s education system is progressing or regressing, they also take pride in knowing whether their state’s results are better than another’s. Share content that affects your audiences in a way that encourages their involvement or engagement.
  7. People value transparency.What each of the previous insights comes down to is being open with your followers. Some of NAEP’s best performing posts are the ones that allow followers to demystify its complex process.

Social media is an important part of a comprehensive communications effort when it’s used to form relationships. Without question, developing content for NAEP’s social media is a never-ending challenge that’s been really enjoyable for me.

Who knew you could have this much fun with a federal statistical agency?