Business presentations and good vocabulary

Speaking with Value — Put Your Money Where Your Audience Is

If you can purchase something for one dollar, why would you want to pay five?

You wouldn’t. So, why use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do?

Speakers who like to impress an audience may use words that are not commonly spoken by the average person. While I’m not saying we should use gutter language or not speak intelligently, it is important to make sure your audience understands your message.

The following words are from a 12th grade vocabulary list. How many of the definitions do you know?

– Contumely
– Deleterious
– Parsimonious
– Pusillanimous
– Lugubrious
– Nefarious

If your audience is a scholarly bunch of English teachers, by all means, go ahead and speak their language-use fifty-dollar words. But, if your listeners are average wage earners, you will do well to keep your presentation simple-not because your audience is stupid, but because it is more enjoyable to hear familiar words and phrases than to feel like you need a dictionary just to understand what is being said.

You can confuse your listener and confound your message by using complicated vocabulary words. You don’t need to “dumb down” your speech, but do consider your audience and their level of understanding of the subject you are approaching. Avoid using technical jargon, unfamiliar medical terms and industry acronyms that only those in that profession would understand; unless, of course you are speaking to an audience who already understands those terms.

Now for those who are curious, here are some brief definitions of the words I used to challenge you:

• Contumely – insulting or offensive treatment
• Deleterious – poisonous or morally harmful
• Parsimonious – thrifty to the point of being stingy
• Pusillanimous – lacking in courage
• Lugubrious – mournfully depressed
• Nefarious – wicked or evil

When it comes to speaking to an audience, think of who your audience is. Then, remember to put your money (words) where your audience can grasp them.

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Yvonne Perry is a freelance writer and the owner of Writers in the Sky Creative Writing Services (WITS). She and her team of ghostwriters are ready to assist you with writing and editing for books, eBooks, Web text, business documents, resumes, bios, articles, and media releases. For more information about writing, networking, publishing, and book promotion, or to sign up for free email delivery of WITS newsletter, please visit New subscribers receive a free eBook Tips for Freelance Writing.

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