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"I will tell you..."

This week I was privileged to listen to a vision and strategy presentation by a Chief Learning Officer (CLO) for a Fortune 50 company. While the content of the message was pretty good, I was struck by a habit of the speaker that was both a gift and a curse to the audience.

As she spoke seated before us in a very calm and genuine manner, she presented with vulnerability and confidence. What caught my attention was how she prefaced her positions with "I will tell you..."

The gift:

As she went on to speak about the ambiguity still present in a transitioning learning department she was poised as she stated, "While we are not sure ... I will tell you..." This was the perfect set up to deliver confidence to the audience that some things are progressing even in the grey. Later as she outlined the plan she said, "here is the plan... And I will tell you..." Again the phrased provided the perfect bridge to offering context to the plan that was outlined. Once more she used it as she presented her observations of the current state and began her analysis with, "I will tell you..." The gift in each of these examples being the consistency in using the phrase to instill confidence, provide context, and share her analysis.

The curse:

Had the presentation been centered around those three objectives, (to instill confidence, provide context, or share analysis) the phrase would have done its job in helping hit home with the messages. However, there was much more free flowing information and perspective shared and several more uses of the phrase. Unfortunately, it was not so well placed in the other uses and to this listener it became more of a hitch than a carefully, intentionally placed phrase. It actually began to deter my attention from the message as I was focusing in on the repeats of "I will tell you..."

The point:

Great presentations are delivered by great presenters. It is wise to observe those who do it often and do it well. You are sure to find that they are intentional in taking you on a journey while often using words or phrases to keep the message tied together. It is also wise to collect feedback on your own presentations. Tape yourself, or have someone do it, to see if you have any hitches in your delivery. Any words or phrases that serve as fillers when you are thinking or trying to remember the next point you're presenting. In Toastmaster International speaking groups there is actually an official role designated to count the "ahhhs" and "ummms" of the speakers. Ultimately, the goal is to remove those fillers by reducing the numbers with each speech and boosting the confidence of the speaker along the way.

While I won't say "I will tell you..." was the CLO's filler, I will tell you it began to sound as insignificant to the message as ahhh or ummm.

"You know what I'm saying?" (hint: that's a speaker's hitch)