Kathy and Ross Petras, brother-and-sister co-authors of “Awkord Moments” share some wise adds and deletes to your often-used phrases that will increase your executive presence.
Phrases NOT to say!
“For what it’s worth.” Replace with nothing. If it’s not worth saying you would not say it at all. Please.
“If you know what I mean.” Replace with nothing. You already know what you mean because you are saying what you mean!
“In my opinion.” Replace with nothing. It is your opinion!
“Needless to say.” Self-explanatory here. Stop saying this phrase!
Phrases that need a quick fix
❌ Weak: “I think this would”
✅ Strong: “I believe this would”
➜ Tip – Changing “think” to “believe” is a tiny tweak with a huge payoff.
❌ Weak: “I just wanted to touch base”
✅ Strong: “I wanted to touch base”
➜ Tip – delete the word “just”. Sounds apologetic.
❌ Weak: “Sorry”
✅ Strong: “Excuse me”
➜ Tip – Save apologies for when you need to own up for something you’ve done wrong. Use “excuse me” when your grocery cart runs into someone else’s cart, ETC. Kathy and Ross Petras ask, “Why say ‘Sorry to bother you,’ when a simple ‘Excuse me’ is shorter, snappier and less self-deprecating?”
Swap or delete these phrases to convey more executive presence, for what it’s worth.
A client bought a new mattress and decided to take part in the mattress company’s focus group about the experience.
“Why did you buy this mattress?”, they asked. Reasonable question! My client answered, “I moved.” What she did not say was that she moved due to a relationship break up.
“How did you feel about the price of the mattress?”, they asked. Reasonable question! My client answered, “It was a fair price.” What she did not say was that she knew someone at the mattress company that extended an employee discount.
You never hear the whole truth.
The unsaid answers that my client did not share would have given more accurate information.
How can you glean more transparent data at exit interviews, strategic meetings, and annual reviews? OR… any day/time of the week?!
Listen between the lines.
The most effective communicators know how to use every tool at their disposal.
Ask questions and go three deep. Explore beyond the first answer given.
Observe nonverbal behavior. Look at gestures, stance, tone of voice.
Have an approachable attitude. Be present and focused on the other.
Smile. Always a good idea (but you don’t need to grin like the village idiot).
Use good eye contact. Be inclusive and look at everyone if there is more than one person involved.
You may still not hear the whole truth; but you’ll net a more transparent interaction.
Picture you’re on a set for a commercial shoot. It’s a “video village” collection of director’s chairs and monitors. 36 professionals from makeup, hair and wardrobe to teleprompter & script editors to ad agency folks to the photography team to the director hover over their respective domains of production.
Such was the background for my week of coaching the talent on set for this large tech company.
The action starts. The talent begins to share his message. And… then… everything comes to a dead halt.
The ankle reveal.
The two producers, zooming in from Seoul, say, “We don’t like the talent’s ankles.”
They go on to comment, “The focus needs to be on his face and his content, and we are distracted by the half-inch of revealed ankles between his loafers and the European cut pants.”
What’s this have to do with you?
You’re probably not doing video shoots with 36-people production crews, BUT you are communicating as a leader all the time… AND DETAILS MATTER.
Little details that create big outcomes.
Your gestures – are you fiddling with your cuticles, wringing your hands, or pushing your hair repetitively behind your ears?
Your stance – are you swaying, standing more on one leg and then the other, pacing, doing a meaningless fox trot movement, or slouching?
Your eye contact – are you just looking at the power people in the room, staring out over the tops of audiences’ heads, or doing the eye dart maneuver?
Your setting/background in-person or virtually – are you fighting for your audience’s flea-sized brain cells due to distractions behind you?
The rest of the commercial.
Our video production stops for 55 minutes! Big discussions are held between the wardrobe people, the ad agency people, the on-set director, and the producers in Seoul.
My talent puts on a pair of socks.
Guess what? It was the right move. Your gaze never goes down to the guy’s feet (even though you never realize that his ankles cause a distraction).
Don’t get me started on how much time it took to select the pillows on the background couch.
He was “everyone’s favorite rumpled television detective”, writes historian David Fantle about Peter Falk, the star of the 1970’s series Columbo. Falk plays Lieutenant Columbo and the beauty of Columbo was watching how he unraveled the mysteries and crimes.
He asks insightful questions in a humble manner.
Relevance to you
A client said to me the other day, “Karen, I use the Columbo Method to negotiate, sell, and diffuse any situation.”
I commented, “I remember Peter Falk wearing his wrinkled raincoat in Columbo and always liked him.”
He said, “Exactly! He solved the crime, and got people to tell him everything. Even the bad guys trusted him… until they lost the game.”
My client explained, “Columbo got the job done by asking three strategic questions. And I use those same questions to diffuse anger, get agreement, get the sale, talk to my teenage daughter …whatever.”
Columbo’s 3 question method
1️⃣ What did you mean by that? (Allows the other person to further explain the situation) 2️⃣ How did you come to that conclusion? Or – What makes you think that way? (This allows you to really get inside the other person’s head) 3️⃣ Have you ever considered __________ Or – Another way to look at this is ___________ and you fill in this blank with your alternative solution.
Ask these 3 questions to get what you want. Good luck in solving your next crime or negotiating your next deal with your board, team or teenage kid.
Add “credibility sprinkles” to increase your “trust index”
Tell your team your ROI – what’s in it for them
Hard to choose. All of the above are crucial for your success as a presenter.
But… one other item goes at the very top.
Karen with Carol Kozloski @ BNSF Railway Workshop
Thank you, BNSF Railway and Carol Kozloski, for modeling that Top Priority Item when I presented my workshop to your BNSF Railway team.
Safety. Safety comes first above all other matters. For the first 10 minutes, BEFORE I was introduced, Carol shared safety protocol precautions.
1st – Carol shared where the exits were and where we would go if we were to be evacuated.
2nd – Carol appointed a CPR certified attendee that would be ready to provide CPR if necessary.
3rd – Carol appointed someone else to be the 911 phone caller if needed. NOTE: if you don’t appoint this one person, then everyone might be calling 911 creating more chaos.
4th – Later on, in our ½ day program, the CPR appointee had to leave and another person was designated.
Fortunately we did not need to use these safety measures. But I’ve never felt safer.
Emergencies I’ve experienced during other speaking engagements:
An audience member faints, falling on the floor needing medical assistance.
Fire alarms going off.
Your responsibility as the presenter
My client showed the way for a safe and successful morning. However, in my 25+ years of speaking all over the place, this was my first time to observe excellent safety precautions shared in advance.
Your responsibility as the speaker/leader (when you don’t have the brilliance of my BNSF Railway client) is to coordinate with your meeting organizer (if there is one) OR do your own Safety Protocol Plan prior to your event using the list above. Because YOU are the one on the stage with the mic.