Presentation Language

Thursday, January 26th, 2012 6 comments

Presentation-LanguageMany presenters spend a lot of energy (and money!) focusing on body language in a presentation, but a far more important area to focus on is actually your spoken language. The words you use can have a big impact on your audiences – far more than the way you hold your hands.

These tips follow areas presenters should make sure to address in a sales presentation, as they can have a big impact on the way you get across your message and whether or not your audience buys from you. Consider these aspects when presenting, and you are more likely to close the sale.

Avoid Jargon

Language is the single biggest barrier to communication in presentations. And we don’t mean foreign languages or accents: we mean technical language or jargon. Presenters often assume that their audiences have a similar level of knowledge and familiarity with the subject matter to themselves, and thus make the fatal error of using terminology that the audience does not understand. This leads to incomprehension and confusion, which can have the added effect of making audiences tune out – and a confused and disengaged audience is not what you should be aiming for.

Use ‘You’, not ‘We’

It’s easy to accidentally focus a presentation on the presenter, rather than the audience. Even if you’ve cut the company description and focused on how you can deliver benefits to your audience – which is by no means the standard – many presenters unknowingly turn the presentation back to themselves, simply by the language they use. Phrases such as ‘we deliver’ and ‘we can provide’ sound like the obvious choices in a sales presentation, but actually focus on the presenter. Using audience-centred language such as ‘you need’ and ‘you will experience’ draws the audience in, and presenters automatically find themselves expressing benefits, as they focus on what everything means to the audience. Remember: in a sales presentation, you’re not teaching the audience about your company; you’re demonstrating how they would benefit from working with you.

Use positive language: ‘You will’ instead of ‘you should’

Using non-committal language such as ‘you should find’ or ‘your sales should improve’ can subconsciously imply to the audience that you don’t have much confidence on what you can deliver. Using positive, solid language such as ‘you will sell more in a shorter space of time’ helps to instil confidence in your audience and they will find themselves really imagining what your offering could do for them.

Address your audience by name

This is dependent on the size of your audience and your familiarity with them, but can be effective in certain situations. Address members of your audience by name (if you know them and you’re in a setting intimate enough for it to be appropriate) to really grab their attention. Refer to certain situations and details that you have an inside knowledge of to help them imagine working with you. So for example, “Rather than selling 3 cars a month, you would sell 7.”

Remember your message.

Refer everything back to your value proposition, and the key reasons your audience should do business with you. Repeat the important words and phrases (not too much, or it will get annoying!) to really embed these messages in your audience’s minds. This will ensure that they will remember your messages at the key point – when they are making the decision.

Benefits, not features

Not specifically language, but something to think about in your patter. Don’t just describe what you can do, describe how it can benefit your audience.

The way you say things can really have a big impact, so really focus on these techniques in your rehearsal. Do them enough and they should come naturally – so that on the day, your main concern is where it should be: getting your message across.


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The Ultimate Guide to Sales Presentations

6 Comments to Presentation Language

  1. #1

    Graham Young

    5:39 pm, January 26th, 2012

    Nice article, which I totally agree with except I think you meant the second subtitle to be “Use You, not We”.

  2. #2

    Jessica Pyne

    10:34 am, January 27th, 2012

    Thanks Graham – you’re quite right! Glad you liked the article.

  3. #3

    Jacklyn Willrett

    4:07 pm, February 16th, 2012

    Some good sound advice to remind us to be human when presenting.

  4. #4

    Jessica Pyne

    9:31 am, February 20th, 2012

    Glad you liked the post, Jacklyn.

  5. #5

    Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities

    3:20 am, April 11th, 2012

    Well said! For anybody interested in more on the use of language in presentations, you might also like these:

    * A table showing shorter phrases you can use for over a dozen common expressions used by presenters, plus how to shorten others like “above and beyond” or “roles and responsibilities” ( )

    * How to avoid a “gotcha” when using the word “you” ( )

  6. #6

    Jessica Pyne

    1:27 pm, April 13th, 2012

    Thanks for the links, Craig – some interesting content! While it is important not to waffle when presenting, it is easy for presenters to get bogged down in the details of what they’re saying, rather than on getting their message across. We’d recommend that presenters first focus on making the changes that will actively help persuade their audience – after that, they can focus on fine-tuning the details of their speech.