The Words of the Seven Percent

“… a landmark UCLA study showed that gestures count for a whopping 55% of the impact you have on an audience, while your tone of voice makes up 38%. Your words? A measly 7%” –Forbes

Words, then, are the minority player in presentations. Indeed, to help detect falsehood, one should ask for a written summary to remove the 93% of the demagoguery and hand-waving. Seven percent is not zero, however, and some audiences do pay attention to some of the words: the words that annoy them. If the words are also on visuals (like slides1), they count for more than seven percent

The word impact as a verb (e.g. “This will impact sales”) makes me twitch. I prefer the verb affect, and I accept that this is a lonely preference. Likewise, performant, value proposition, upskilling, etc., will break my undivided attention

Important, perhaps, to an engineering or scientific audience: theory vs. hypothesis. Common usage allows the use of the first in place of the second, however those who have been shamed for their past usage, will stop listening to mentally note the error

Using whom rather than who is a no-win situation: some might care
about the correct usage, and some might resent the correct usage as presumptuous

Regional spelling differences (e.g. British vs. American) are much less distracting than outright misspellings. alright and alot might look like correctly spelled words, but the author had to ignore their spell-checker to leave them in

Common words used in specific contexts might surprise, confuse, and even offend: abort a process; integrate the systems; CPM; kill your babies. The affected listeners will not remember the rest of the presentation, if any of it.

Presentations, especially with accompanying text, depend on one’s gestures, one’s tone, even one’s noble visage, but even in these YouTube decades, posterity will preserve the script, and history will judge the words. Make your seven-percent solution effective by avoiding the eccentricities of the audience.



  1. Don’t read your slides unless your audience is illiterate 

 
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