Episode 028 — Confirm Value and Avoid Offensive Language

2 Minute Tip: Confirm Value

At the end of a presentation, I like to ask the audience, “Was this helpful?” or “Was this valuable?”


Usually there is still a lot of energy in the room and folks will answer with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”


Obviously, this is great for my ego, but it also does a couple other things. It gives the audience members a chance to acknowledge their own approval. They have now acknowledged that yes, this session was a good use of their time. They are also more likely to remember that it was valuable because they experienced saying it was valuable. Further, once folks say something out loud among other people, they are more likely to continue to believe it.


Post Tip Discussion: Avoid Offensive language


Among the updates to the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is a change to pronouns. They now consider “they” and “their” to be acceptable 3rd person, singular, gender-neutral pronouns. This got me thinking about the evolution of language.


Words and phrases that may have been common and acceptable a few years ago may no longer be appropriate in a professional context. It’s important to remove those words from most presentations. They may be racially charged, ableist, homophobic, or offensive to another marginalized community.


Whether you see this as the growth of social justice and awareness or political correctness and oversensitivity run amuck is irrelevant. Using inflammatory language in your presentation, even unintentionally, can make you a less effective speaker. It can distract from your message and if you don’t land your message or your call to action, then what was the point?


Mark Horstman of the Manager Tools podcast is fond of saying, “Communication is what the listener does.”  The intent behind your words doesn’t matter because the listener assigns value to your words based on their own experiences and point of view.


If you must include inflammatory language, do it intentionally, not accidentally. Do it because you have a specific goal you want to achieve with those words. Don’t let simple neglect undermine your message. And make sure you know your audience and that your word choice is appropriate for it.


Call To Action


  1. Was this valuable? Let me know in the comments below, or leave a message on the listener feedback line at 650-Talk-Tip.
  2. After your next presentation, ask your audience if they found it valuable.
  3. Watch your language for potentially offensive terms and purge them if need be.
  4. Don’t get best…get better.

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