Make Every Word Count

We live in a society of words—too many words and often words that do not count. "You know," "and everything," "stuff," and "let me be frank," are typical. We don't pay close attention because there is so much fluff. So if you want to make people listen, make every word count.

    At the beginning of your presentation, don't begin with "I'm glad to be here…" or "What a pleasure it is…"  We assume those feelings without being reminded. I often begin my speech  "Be Present When You are Present" with "The single greatest secret of success is paying attention."  I find that grabs their attention and I am into my speech quickly.

    One of the reasons we remember the words spoken when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, is because they were succinct and brief. We can still probably quote them. "Houston, Tranquility Base. The eagle has landed."  And then: "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."  No unnecessary words.

    In starting a conversation on the phone, begin with, "This is [your name], and I'm calling to…." So many people who call in to talk shows begin with "How are you doing?" or "Thanks for taking my call," or "I enjoy your show." Start by giving your name to the host and then your point and you will be well-received.

    Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words. A young woman sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner party confided to him she had bet she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, "You lose." And in 1928, while vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he issued the most famous of his succinct statements, "I do not choose to run for President in 1928."

    Be brief with words and what you do speak will be remembered.

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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