Words to avoid in presentations

In the world of pitching and promoting, there are some 'buzzwords' you should avoid since they have long lost their real meaning and can turn an audience away from your message.

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These overused words are well-known are often appear on LinkedIn profiles. So that you don't make the same mistakes, here are the buzzwords as identified by bestselling author and startup coach Bob Dorf.

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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