Cutting Out Cringey Comments

Some speakers use phrases which make me cringe because the implications of the words may be either insulting or misleading. Let’s look at a few examples.

One of the worst is when the speaker says early in his or her presentation, “I did not really have to prepare this presentation. We have a lot going on in our organization that has taken up so much of my time.” Don’t say it even if it is true. What you are telling your audience is, “I don’t respect you enough to prepare adequately.” Even if you did have emergencies occur that kept you from preparing, the audience will find that quickly enough by your content and delivery. Or you may be able to get by because of your skill level without your audience picking up on your lack of preparation.

Å second sentence you want never to say in a speech is “Let me be honest with you.” That tells us that up until that time you have not been forthright with us. You have not been completely honest or open with us and now you are going to tell us like the situation really is. Instead, say “What I’m about to say is what I want you to take with you from this presentation,” or “What I’m about to say is probably the most important point I will make.”

A third sentence to avoid is “Studies show that…” Instead, you want to use the specific studies you are referring to. “Studies show…:” does not give credence to whatever evidence you actually have. If you can’t quote from the specific study, don’t use it. One effective way to build and maintain your credibility is always to include where your evidence comes from. When I use stories that are not my own, I keep a copy in my files and the source in case someone questions my narrative. I remember only once when one of my examples was questioned, and that was about a time when a person at an auction bought a box of junk for ten dollars and at the bottom was a stamp worth a considerable amount of money. Fortunately, I still had my source.

Finally, be careful when you use the expression, “In conclusion…”  Too many times I have heard a speaker say that and then spend another five minutes on materials that show he or she was not concluding. Make sure you only use the expression, “In conclusion…” once and then finish your presentation with a quotation or move to action step. An easy way to alienate your audience is to not finish your presentation when you say you will.

Choose your words carefully. Words or sentences which may not be vital to the actual content of your presentation can make void what is really helpful and vital for your audience to understand.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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