Online Public Speaking

Training & Practice

Business - Part 1 of 4

Speaking in front of groups in business settings has some implied rules and common terms. These can vary somewhat based on your industry, the country you work in, the content of the material you’re presenting, and particularly your audience. In this section, we’ll give you some general points to consider and implement in your next business presentation.

This information is to be used along with the other step by step processes here in Pspeak, such as what you’ll find in your personalized Path. In particular, the How to Present  section has tons of information that applies to business speaking.

Clients or peers?

The single biggest impact on a business presentation is whether it’s for clients or co-workers. Speaking to a group of clients with a goal in mind can be radically different than speaking to co-workers about your enterprise.

The most common goal of a presentation to clients is to encourage them to begin to use your services or to continue to use your services. Consider what the CLIENT wants and needs. It’s mind boggling how many people in “sales” talk AT the client or customer and never consider what they want to hear.

If you’re speaking to co-workers, you need to be aware of the “food chain”. Are you speaking to your boss? Your boss’s boss? Subordinates? You’ll need to make appropriate adjustments to what you say and how you say it.

With superiors it’s typically safest to travel the middle of the road. Avoid controversy, choose polite language that proves that you love the company, but don’t try to sound like a “suck up” – unless that is your style.

If you’re talking to subordinates you might want to sound a little bolder so they sense your power and authority. This might include dropping a few controversial comments or making a personal observation or two – although be careful about being too controversial, especially if you’re referencing someone higher up the food chain who isn’t in the room.

Speaking of the food chain, try to spice it up

One of the most boring elements of the business world is the offend-no-one language that is often employed. If you are presenting in a business setting and have to be careful not to offend anyone, at least look for opportunities to dress up what you have to say. We’re not going to recommend that you say outlandish things to really spice it up, but while you’re writing your outline or your presentation, look for ways to increase your topic’s appeal to the audience whenever possible.

Of course, use these methods appropriately. For example, if you start quoting poetry to the board of directors, it better be some darned good and relevant poetry.

Next, there are often unique expressions used in the workplace. These terms are sometimes referred to as “business-speak”.

Some of these may not work outside of business, whereas some things we say out in the “real” world might not work in a business setting.

For example, telling your spouse “I’m anticipating a launch date in the first quarter” when they ask when the leaky sink is going to get fixed isn’t a good idea, especially if said spouse is cranky because that project hasn’t had sufficient assets or human capital allocated to it of late.

Conversely, when an employee at work hasn’t completed a project on time you probably shouldn’t say “You are a useless moron” even if you want to (although we hope you wouldn’t say that at home either).

As you write and give your business presentation, be careful of which terms and expressions you use. Sometimes it’s a good idea to use words that are a little casual or personal, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a good idea to use business speak, sometimes it sounds too contrived. The more familiar you are with your audience members, the easier this will be.  Speak to them in a way that makes sense, that keeps them interested and that is respectful and engaging. 

Here’s an example of using too much personal, casual information:

“I was telling my wife in bed the other night that I really love our new products. I’m really psyched that we came up with new stuff”!

People might get a little uncomfortable with the reference and the visual of the speaker being in bed with his wife, and the terms “psyched” and “stuff” might be a little casual unless it’s part of the corporate culture.

Here’s an example of using too much business-speak:

“I was sharing data recently with a personal associate about the impact our new assets is having on my state of mind. My stock in happiness has gone up”!

You probably wouldn’t say this, but we need to make the point in case you would. Too much business-speak can come across a bit corny.

Here’s a way to say the same thing in a middle of the road fashion:

“I am so excited about our new products that I even find myself talking about them at home! I think the direction we’re going in with our new line is fantastic”.

This allows for a little personal detail to bring home the point that the speaker is so excited they talk about their work at home, which in turn can make the audience feel warm and fuzzy and get the sense the speaker really likes his or her job. It also throws in some expected language, use of terms like “direction” and “line”.

Above all, watch out for “TMI” – too much information. Some people love to share their latest personal details, good or bad, with co-workers and clients alike. TMI in any  presentation is dangerous, but in the business world it can be fatal to your income and career growth.