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Failure to Communicate: PowerPoint Verbal Crutches to Avoid

June 12, 2014 / Blog cliches, jargon, speech, verbal crutches

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

While PowerPoint presentations are more visually oriented, your words can still prove to be powerful. Wield them properly and you’ll win your audience.

Give into these well-worn crutches and you’ll hardly make an impression.

Enter the Jargon

Jargon is a type of language composed of words and phrases that can be very informal and restricted to a particular group of people. Many people make the mistake of using industry jargon whenever they deliver a presentation, thinking they will sound smarter and more “businessy.”  The problem, however, is that you risk alienating, or even irritating, your audience if they didn’t understand what you are talking about.

Instead of saying, ““In the past fiscal year, we’ve leveraged strategic thinking to maximize our savings and capitalize on double-ply bathroom tissue as a substitute for the singly-ply variant.” You can just say, “We saved money last year by using double-ply bathroom tissues instead of single-ply ones.” That isn’t so hard, is it?

Cliché of the Titans

Clichés are nothing but tired metaphors. They aren’t just products of laziness, they also stem from the presenter’s lack of respect for the audience. If you value the audience’s attention, you’d do better than spit out uninspired phrases.

For what it’s worth, avoid clichés like the plague. If you can’t think outside the box, then go the extra mile by tweaking the phrasing to make them less cliché sounding.

In addition to verbal clichés, you may also want to avoid “visual clichés.” Visual clichés don’t do anything to let your presentation stand out.

Such images are now so common that it’s likely your audience expects to see them on your slides. Subvert their expectation by showing something new or different. So instead of showing a handshake stock photo, think about using a picture of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson instead.

Terminal Verbosity

Instead of saying “meeting,” you say, “organizational strategic planning and assessment.” Because you believe that big, intimidating words make you sound important. You may be overly compensating for something but this will simply leave your audience with the impression that you are arrogant and pretentious. Besides, adding more to your words only diminishes clarity.

Mark Twain had said it better, “The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.”

The point of your presentation is to share information and be understood. Alienating your audience with these verbal crutches would defeat your purpose. Leave a great impression by bringing original thoughts and  elegant simplicity into your presentation.


When it comes to the boardroom, say what you have to say. Avoid padding it with too much rhetoric. You may use jargon in conversations with colleagues or when writing business letters.

But your presentation is not the place for them. Pausing just to explain specific terms can take up much of your presentation time. So why not use plain, understandable English instead?



Financial Buzz Words Terms.” Investopedia. Accessed June 12, 2014.