Don't use the word "very". Instead, here are 128 alternatives.

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What Did Meg Whitman Really Mean?

As CEO of your company, your words are important. The messages that you deliver in public are evaluated by your investors, staff, suppliers, customers, competitors, marketplace and media. People will judge you and your company by your words. They might misjudge your message. That’s why it’s important to thoughtfully choose your words to convey the right intended message. This advice applies to both spoken and written messages.

This statement from Meg Whitman, CEO of HP Enterprise, offers a practical review of what not to say. It wasn’t an idle retort. This appeared as a status update on her Linkedin profile. The smiling photo that accompanied the message suggests that she was both comfortable and pleased with the statement. She might feel differently after reading this review.

Let’s analyze her words and explore the possible unintended messages.

“I want to be crystal clear”

That seems like a good opening statement. Unfortunately, the rest of the statement drastically clashes with this well-sounding promise.

“HPE is not getting out of software”

That’s easy to understand and sounds clear. If she had stopped at this point, it would have been crystal clear, believable and memorable.

But she continues and muddies it up. By the time you read the full statement you’re likely confused and annoyed. When you glance back at the innocent looking opening phrase (I want to be crystal clear) you would be justified in labeling it a lie. If the first statement is shown to be a lie then everything else is deemed to be part of the lie.

“Moving forward”

This phrase is an overused cliché that is meaningless. It adds nothing of value or understanding to the message. It’s a silly phrase because it suggests that we might also move backward. If you’re feeling bold, the next time a speaker starts their sentence with this phrase, interrupt the person and ask, “And what are your plans for moving backward?”

I suggest that this phrase be banned from your lexicon. Park it alongside the verbal nuisances umm and ah.

“we will double down”

This curious phrase is from Black Jack. When a player chooses to “doubles down” she is doubling her bet and agreeing to accept only one more card. Is Meg using this analogy to suggest that HPE will double their investment in some part of the business? Was she talking about Research and Development, Marketing or executive compensation?

It that’s what she meant, it would have been clear to say “We will double our investment in product development”.

Perhaps Meg got her Black Jack analogies confused. Maybe she was referring to the splitting of the company into two separate entities, HP INC and HP Enterprise. That Black Jack move is called “splitting pairs”.

What did she really mean by saying “double down”? Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted the Black Jack analogy and she was merely thinking about a KFC sandwich.

“on the software capabilities”

This phrase follows the “double down” comment. The noun here is “capabilities”. Does she mean that they will double the capabilities of their software? Will they make it twice as fast?
Will each software product expand to have twice the number of features or capabilities? Will they simply double the fees?

“that power and differentiate our infrastructure solutions”

This appears to be a phrase clearly intended to confuse the reader and obfuscate the message. Because it continues the sentence, this phrase is a qualifier for the preceding part. In other words, she’s only talking about doubling down on software capabilities that power and differentiates the infrastructure solutions – but none of the other software capabilities. I don’t know if there are others, but there must be if she needs to qualify the capabilities with this phrase.

I don’t understand what the word “power” means in this context. The word “differentiate” suggests that she’s only talking about HPE products that are distinct within the market. Does that mean she plans to discontinue products for which there are competitive alternatives? “Infrastructure solutions” sounds like a wiring problem or a blown fuse.

“and are critical in a cloud environment”

This is an additional qualifier to the software capabilities. That suggests that the only capabilities she’s addressing are the ones that satisfy the previous criteria plus this one. Again, I don’t know the intended context here. Perhaps she means security. If you mean security, say security. If you’re not sure what you mean, say nothing. Imagine how refreshing that would be.

Time to Examine the Cards

What did Meg Whitman really mean? Who knows? We don’t know what the intended message was or who it was intended to influence. What was the purpose of issuing this statement?  What precipitated this statement? From my perspective, the message was confusing, annoying and dishonest. Perhaps we’ll soon see a retraction or clarification of this “crystal clear” message.

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The Greatest Speech I Never Delivered

The Challenge
I was a shy student but I wanted to be popular – especially with the girls. I believed that if I became president of the high school student council I would become popular.

It was apparent to me that the way to be president of the high school council was to deliver a popularity-winning speech to the school assembly. I noticed that the student who became president was the one who delivered the best speech.

My Plan
So I devised a plan. I would run for student council president and win because I would deliver the best speech. The first part of my plan was to create an incredible speech.

I started to write that speech. It included a strong opening. There were quotes from famous people. I would appeal to the interest of my audience without pandering to silly whims. I would be bold but humble. I would make them laugh with me. And we would end with a rousing chorus of the school song from the band. I figured that I could arrange that because I was a trombone player in the high school band.

It was a great speech. It would be the best speech that they every heard in the high school auditorium. Students and teachers would talk about it for years. Every future speaker at our school would see it as the ultimate example.

But I never delivered that speech.

I chickened out. I didn’t run for high school president. I told no one about my presidential dreams or public speaking plans. I was afraid to speak. I was afraid to try. I was afraid that I would mess up. I was afraid that they would laugh at me.

I never became high school president. No one ever knew – until now - of my hopes.

It could have been the greatest speech I ever delivered. But it never happened.

I wish I had had the courage and the wisdom to deliver that speech – even if I failed. But I can't change what happened yesterday.

The reason that I share this story with you is that you can’t go back but you can go forward. It took me 25 years to become a professional speaker. Today I have delivered over 1,000 professional presentations and I coach and train others to deliver million-dollar presentations. Audiences often describe me as an entertaining and motivational speaker.

It doesn’t matter where you were yesterday. If you want to be a better speaker tomorrow you can start improving today. Focus on where you want to be - not on your past.
Effective public speaking is neither a right nor a natural talent. It is a skill set that you can learn, practice and improve. Don’t strive to deliver the perfect speech. Work to be a successful speaker. And sometimes success simply means getting up, falling down and getting up again.
To be a more successful speaker you must learn the techniques, practice the skills and speak.
© George Torok is The Speech Coach for Executives. He helps business leaders deliver million dollar presentations. For more presentation tips visit  To arrange presentation coaching or training visit or call 905-335-1997

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