Communicate in the Language of Your Audience

Adjust your vocabulary to suit each particular group to which you present. If they are shareholders, bankers, or accountants and your topic is leveraged buyouts, you require a different vocabulary than if you are talking to marketing people or account executives on strategic selling.

Each audience has its own unique language, familiar expressions and sense of humour with which you must be comfortable or you will not gain credibility.

Be careful of semantics. The words you use will have different connotations in different contexts. The same expression can be specifically or vaguely defined. Some words are used in relative terms and others are absolute, such as large, small, wide, long, easy, difficult, liberal, conservative, ethnic, religious, expensive, cheap – it depends on how you use them.

Use meanings that are familiar to your audience. If necessary, explain your own definitions. For example, “politics” can refer to our system of government, in which there are political parties, or it can refer to the power dynamics between people or departments in a company. “Values” can refer to the company’s mission statement, or the particular beliefs of individuals.

In a sales presentation, there is a world of difference between mentioning that a product is “cheap” or saying it is “inexpensive” and “affordable”. Different professions and industrial sectors use different euphemisms.

For example, sales people are often titled “account executives”, “account managers”, “associates”, or “product representatives”, even “technical consultants” rather than simply “salespeople”.

Recruiters sometimes call themselves “executive search consultants”, “human resource consultants”, or “headhunters”. I recommend that you use jargon only with appropriate groups. You will never be criticized because you used words that everyone understood.

Make use of vivid, expressive words that paint pictures the audience can see. Abstract concepts like “recession”, “restructuring”, “corporate culture”, “revenue enhancement” and “free trade” are not as clear as “happy customers”,”job losses”, “plant closings”, and “profit after tax”. Examine your everyday speech and look for vague expressions that you can replace with more direct and explicit ones. Don’t go on talking about “rationalizing your departmental budget” when you really mean you are “cutting costs”!


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Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives
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