Executive Speaking Weblog

Communication – the future of business

What’s your first word?

Posted by Presentation Skills on September 16, 2008

What is the first word you say when you speak? Is it …Ummm… …Errr… or ‘Well…’ How does this make you look and sound?

The first word you utter sets the tone for how people will understand and respect your message. Are you being powerful, persuasive or pointless?

Powerful words have a reason to be said. They help convey your message in a way that adds value. They give direction to what you are saying and where you are going. They are often short words in short sentences.

Similarly, persuasive words give a direction as to where your message is going. They invite your listeners along on the journey. Often they are words that have emotional attachments to them.

Pointless words kill your presentation. They should be avoided at all costs. What are pointless words/phrases? They include:

  • Um, er and Arr
  • Oh
  • I
  • Me
  • Welcome
  • Thank you
  • Hello (except when greeting in a one-on-one situation)
  • What we are going to look at…
  • I’d like to tell you…
  • Can I ask you a question about…

When you start any message with these type of words, you will lose your power and the respect of your audience. Your message will be diluted and you and your audience wont even know why or how it happened.

Now it’s your turn to listen. For the next two days, listen to the first word people say when they are speaking. This can be on the ‘phone, in a meeting, or in the coffee room. Count how many pointless words you hear and see how it affects your feeling of their message. Then compare that to the powerful or persuasive words that others use.

Let me know how you go.



Speak Motivate and Lead: How Real Leaders inspire others to follow

3 Responses to “What’s your first word?”

  1. Kathi said

    Hello Darren
    I like reading your blog. I talk to groups of women on the regular basis, so it is important for me to know what is the best way to reach them
    I like the above information – and it certainly makes me aware of the importance of starting my conversation on a positive note. However, it would be great to receive some tips from you on how exactly to do that. Maybe something like this: What are positive words/phrases? They include:
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Hi Kathi,

    Thanks for your comments, and I am glad that you find the tips useful. I will think about developing an entry about what positive phrases work well.

    In the mean time, if you are looking for more tips on how to connect with your audience in a quick and proven way, have you checked out my book Speak Motivate and Lead? It is full of great ideas that can help you increase your effectiveness as a speaker. You can see it here http://www.executivespeaking.com.au/SMLII.htm



  3. Alessandra said

    Hi Darren,
    I have noticed a lot of people start off a speech saying “thank you”.
    I would also like to see some examples of positive phrases. Would “good morning” or “good afternoon” work as good starting phrases?


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