“I’m not racist, but…”

…is guaranteed to be followed by something extremely offensive (see also “I’m not sexist, but…”).

Contradicting yourself with a disclaimer is really stupid.

Another example is ‘We respectfully ask that…’ (often written under the title ‘Polite Notice’). It’s not a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card to then say whatever you want; using the word ‘respectfully’ doesn’t prevent anything that follows from being disrespectful, does it? ‘We respectfully ask that you p*ss off’ isn’t exactly respectful, is it? Please assume that your audience isn’t comprised of idiots; simply say or write something which shows that particular quality.

Slightly more subtle is the announcement of something which you’d like other people to say about you (but which they haven’t), such as “I’m really confident.” (Then why are you telling me? Only an insecure person who needs approval would say that, surely? I don’t believe that there’s nothing wrong with being insecure, but please don’t announce that you’re confident instead.) Again, show don’t tell.

Don’t Say. Be.

Want to be confident? Calm? Authoritative?  To become any of those you must assume that role instead of telling people what you’re trying to be. You may not feel that particular quality, but step into the shoes of that amazing speaker and you’ll take yourself a lot closer to actually achieving that quality in the eyes of the audience – and that’s the important bit.


The most commanding public speakers get the audience’s attention by saying nothing. They also speak clearly and appear confident, but they use silence in these moments:

  1. When they start, they take to the stage, look at the audience, smile, and wait. When there is absolute silence, they start talking.
  2. When they’ve delivered an important line, they pause, looking at the audience. They let what they’ve said hang in the air for a few seconds, and then continue.
End It

‘Thank you’ says ‘I’m really grateful for this opportunity to speak to you’ much more effectively, and with fewer words. Clever, eh? And a hell of a lot easier.

Thank you.

Related Material

Nail the Presentation – Start Well

Presentation Fails and How to Fix Them #2: Start Strong

Speak Like No-one’s Listening

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