Why you should never use these seven words in a presentation

public speaking presentation

In the world of pitching and promoting, there are some words which tend to be thrown around more than others, losing their real meaning and gaining notoriety as “buzzwords”. These overused words are well-known, they’ve reared their ugly heads on LinkedIn profiles, and one expert has uncovered seven buzzwords you should never use in a presentation.

Writing for Inc, bestselling author and startup coach Bob Dorf outlined “seven words startups should banish from every [PowerPoint] they show”, advising startups to cut down on hyperbole and ensure the facts are there.

If you’re wanting to be light on buzzwords and heavy on quality pitching, Dorf thinks you should avoid these seven words.

Read more: Why the Australian startup ecosystem is much more than just buzzwords

1. Best

Apart from the exception of search engine giant Google, Dorf believes no startup should use the word “best” due to its inherently comparative meaning. Dorf believes the word can only be used in presentations when it’s backed by “independent, credible” data.

“Best is a lovely word, but it’s a comparative: best compared to what, exactly, and judged by whom? Your team’s or mother’s love are great to have, but is hardly convincing, particularly when uttered by a startup,” he writes.

2. Disruptive

A “term du jour” according to Dorf, the word “disruptive” has been used in almost every industry, whether it needs to be disrupted or not. Dorf questions “who exactly labels an innovation disruptive”, and uses the examples of Facebook and Myspace to demonstrate real disruption.

“Facebook clearly disrupted MySpace, the music-oriented social network. Acquired by News Corp for some $600-million in 2005, MySpace virtually evaporated as Facebook expanded from its .edu origins to today’s 1.86 billion monthly users, clearly disrupting the social media marketplace,” he says.

3. Innovative

“Innovative, similarly overused, cannot be a self-bestowed award. Sometimes a product feature or feature set is truly innovative, as online financial service pioneers demonstrated some years ago,” Dorf says.

4. Leading

Similar to “innovative”, Dorf classifies “leading” as a “worthless descriptor”, noting that early investors looking at a fresh startup will view the term as meaningless. “Can an early-stage startup lead at anything?” he asks.

“What are you leading, anyway? An industry, category, or narrowly-defined market subsegment created to craft an otherwise baseless claim,” Dorf says.

“How many “leading” recipe websites can there possibly be? Maybe yours is the ‘leading website for left handed chefs baking apple pies on weekends.’ Boo.”

5 and 6. Only and unique

Dorf bundles “only” and “unique” together as he believes them to be “virtually synonymous”. He calls on presenters to use them with extreme caution — or never. Dorf says an estimated 17,000 businesses are started every day, and questions how many are truly “one of a kind”.

“Care to invest in ‘the only’ discount retailer of left-handed pool cues in Nebraska?” he says.

7. Cheapest

Rounding out Dorf’s list is what he labels his “favourite” word he believes should never be used when pitching: “cheapest”.

“First, it’s hardly a sustainable value proposition, since any serious competitor threatened by the claim can likely extinguish the fledgling opponent rather quickly by simply lowering prices, even for a little while,” he says.

“It’s seldom defensible, for obvious reasons, and hardly much of a value proposition in many categories.”

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Phil Shaw
Phil Shaw
4 years ago

“Stunning” is my pet hate. Totally over-used in the real estate business.

“Very unique”, “More unique” are other frequent errors. Something is either unique or it is not. There are no degrees of uniqueness, yet even supposedly literate journalists often make these errors.

Rohan Baker
Rohan Baker
4 years ago

Unique is perfectly acceptable to use if you genuinely have a product that no one else makes. I work for a business group that can safely make that claim. If you fall into that category, then get a patent.

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