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Don't Take Me...Literally!

By Craig Harrison
President, 2005-05
NSA/NorCal Chapter

March, 2005
edition of
Profesional Speaker —
The Monthly Magazine of the National Speakers Association

Mistakes and misstatements have a magnifying power on our students and audiences. Don't diminish your credibility through poor language choice. As speakers representing the National Speakers Association whenever we speak, it's our responsibility to audiences to speak and lead eloquently and intelligently, whether on stage or back stage. Especially from the platform, mistakes we make are both amplified and multiplied manifold by our legions of listeners who repeat our words.

Where Do You Stand?

Do you know the difference between lectern and podium? Most don't, and put their foot in their mouth, instead of on the podium.  You stand on a podium (the root "pod," means foot, as in podiatrist), or at a lectern.  Learn the difference between platform, podium, lectern, rostrum, etc., then educate your audiences accordingly.

Transition Transactions

Speaking of meetings, and at them too, how many times has a speaker concluded by saying "I'll now turn this meeting over to…"? You may be a strong speaker but you're not turning the meeting itself over, just control of it. Frankly, you should avoid such clichés like the plague!

I hear speakers and trainers misspeak all the time. Some examples:

"I am 360 degrees opposed to your idea." Suffice it to say, after 360 degrees you've come full circle.

"It's very unique."  Unique is one of a kind; it can't be surpassed. It's like people giving 110%, 150% or 1000%.  And you thought grade inflation was bad! OK, we get the point.

"First Annual" They really mean inaugural. Usually an event's popularity alone determines whether it becomes an annual event, best wishes aside.

Figuratively vs. Literally.  The late singer Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes of TLC, literally burned (a part of) a house down. The rest of us do it figuratively. A speaker tell his audience "somebody literally killed to get the job."  Folks, that's murder!
Presidents and Olympians are forever so.  When you introduce Jimmy Carter, he's still President Carter.  (Of course, he's now a Nobel laureate too!) When you introduce medalists and speakers Mary Lou Retton, Billy Mills or Peggy Fleming, they're Olympians (not past or former Olympians).

Shift Happens:

Just so you know, Paradigm is pronounced pair-ah-dime, not para-DIG 'EM.
Yet these days alternate pronunciations are plentiful: harassment, nuclear (nucular is also acceptable until 2008), and database (pronounced dah-ta-base or DAY-ta-base).
By the way,
The s
ingular of data is datum
The plural of stadium is stadia
Media i
s plural for medium. TV is a medium. Radio too. Print (AKA Newspaper) is another. TV, radio and newspapers together are forms of media.

Can You Speak YSL (Yiddish as a Second Language)?

You don’t have to be Jewish to sprinkle Yiddish terms into your presentation. But you should pronounce the words correctly.

If you're going to kibbitz (chat informally with others) accent the first syllable: KIB-its. It's not pronounced ki-BITS. (That’s more likely a contraction of Kibble and Bits!) For the record, Kibbutz (Ki-BUTZ) is an Israeli collective. To learn more Yiddish I recommend Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish.

Pronunciation Key
Our little platform giveaways
Your routine, M.O. or bag-o-tricks
Must be said with angst
To drag around
rhymes with MA-tah
A rag or ratty old clothing
the "ch" should bring up phlegm
A big fuddy-duddy or VIP
Oy Vey
Said when lights AND sound go out!
rhymes with fetch
One who complains or whines

Got Slang?

Beware overuse of slang. Stop telling us what you're gonna do. Instead tell us what you are going to do. Don’t speak about "doing something good." Know the difference between good and well. You are a good speaker who speaks well when you know when to go to the well.
Most sentences shouldn't start with the word Over-reliance on any word distracts listeners from your message, as do filler words. If you need help join a local Toastmasters club. They actually assign a Wordmaster and Grammarian to count um's, ah's and filler words each meeting. Some clubs even fine speakers a nickel per infraction. (Your choice: be penny wise or sound foolish!)
So, speakers, trainers and colleagues all, let's mind our P's and Cues.

© Copyright 2005 Craig Harrison and Expressions of Excellence!™. All Rights Reserved.

Craig Harrison was the 2004-05 president of the National Speakers Association's Northern California chapter, and 2003-04 chairman of NSA's Sales Professional Emphasis Group (PEG).

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