Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Speakers: When it comes to words, concrete=credible

Smart speakers concern themselves with credibility. And while the expertise in your bio helps to introduce you, most audiences will decide how credible you are after you start speaking. The test? How concrete your language is.

In Why concrete language communicates truth, you'll learn that psychology research shows most people find vivid details and lots of facts make a statement more credible. There's a catch, though:
But all these involve adding extra details or colour. What if we don't have any more details? What if we want to bump up the believability without adding to the fact-count? Just going more concrete can be enough....
The solution means choosing words that reinforce the concrete nature of your statement. Here's how to do it:
  • Avoid abstractions in your nouns and verbs:  With nouns, that means specificity (instead of cars, say Thunderbird; instead of breakfast, say steak and eggs). With verbs, that means less passive tense verbs and more action verbs (less "I was hoping you'd have questions" and more "Ask me anything"). Overall, use fewer adjectives and adverbs and stick to concrete nouns and verbs; you won't sound as if you're exaggerating and your credibility will shine through.
  • Avoid ambiguity: Can your words be miscontrued easily? That might involve how they sound (mussels versus muscles), whether your audience understands a technical term, or terms that mean different things in different circumstances. Reading your lines aloud to a friend will help you figure out the words that make an audience pause and think through confusing terms. Aim for simple, universal terms.
  • Add the invisible visual--the description we can picture in our minds' eye. That kind of specific, easy-to-understand, simple description does more than any slide can do to make your talk memorable--and credible.
Concrete language also may help make you sound more confident, another credibility booster. Start analyzing your presentations and speeches and replace the abstract with the concrete.

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