Communication skills

Presentation tips: No more quaquaversial presentations

- April 20, 2010 2 MIN READ

No more what? Have I impressed you with my fancy terminology yet? I doubt it, yet many speakers use jargon all the time.

We’ve all been to presentations where the speaker used obscure words. Chances are parts of that presentation zoomed over your head while you tried to figure out what on earth they were talking about!

When faced with language that isn’t immediately clear, we naturally focus on the meaning of the words we don’t understand, even if it means we miss the information that follows.

Our attention becomes quaquaversial. That’s a bit of jargon that I’ve borrowed from the field of geography. It means scattered and drifting all over the place. Exactly what you don’t want the focus of your audience to be next time you’re presenting!

Follow these presentation tips to make sure you don’t fall into the terminology trap.

Use the right language for your audience

When putting together a presentation, your central focus should always be your audience. In some contexts the use of jargon is perfectly reasonable and even desirable.

Using the appropriate technical terms can be a good way to build a connection with your audience. But that’s not always the case, so before you start preparing your presentation, ask yourself whether your audience will expect you to use jargon, or whether it’s likely to confuse them. It’s only worthwhile using complex terms if they’re going to add to your presentation rather than detract from it.

Don’t over-complicate

If jargon isn’t required, a general rule is to keep the words descriptive yet simple. You want to take your audience on a journey with you so by the end of the presentation they’re ready to buy your services or products.

Want more articles like this? Check out the  presentation skills section.

Appeal to all the senses

Even though over 90% of our face-to-face communication is through our body language and use of voice, the language you use is also very important. Sometimes we become so focused on dealing with our nerves that we overlook what we’re going to say and just stumble through a presentation.

As we’re all different, individuals in your audience will respond to different words and phrases. People use all of the senses, but generally have a preferred one so cater for these differences by using a smattering of words and phrases that appeal to the different senses. For example:

  • A visual person will respond to picture words, such as ‘If I could show you an attractive way to …’
  • An auditory person will respond to sound words, such as ‘If that sounds good to you we’ll go ahead and discuss how to …’
  • A kinaesthetic person will respond to feelings or doing words, so use ‘If I could help you get a hold of a concrete way in which you could …’

Pre-flight checklist

Once you’ve considered these factors and put together your presentation, re-read the content one last time and ask yourself:

  • Have I used words that could be replaced with simpler ones without detracting from the presentation’s message?
  • Could there be any double meaning?
  • Have the words that I’ve used added to my message?

When you’re happy with the content of your presentation, practise it until you’re comfortable with the flow. To avoid your audience’s attention becoming quaquaversal, it’s important to engage them with the delivery of your carefully crafted words.

Keep it simple, soloists? Or baffle them? What type of language works for you when you’re presenting? Please share your presentation tips below.