When giving any sort of speech in public – or even writing that others will read – we often take care of the ‘big picture’ elements, such as content and order and even choosing the right pictures. But how many of us truly pay attention to the actual words we use, especially if it is in a stressful* situation where we are standing and talking to a room full of people?

But there is mounting* evidence* showing we should be paying attention to even the ‘little’ words we say. Studies are beginning* to show that who we are shines* through, often more than we might want it to, in the words we instinctively use.


According to the BBC, how we express ourselves gives surprisingly accurate clues about our personality. For example, a study from the VU University, Amsterdam showed that extroverts tend to use language that is more abstract and less focused than introverts. An extrovert might say « That was an excellent film » whereas an introvert would be more specific and say « That was historically accurate ». Further research also shows that even the use of articles let others glean our personality. As articles, (the/a/an* in English), are used to specify something, this is not that surprising. For example, where an extrovert might say « Let’s watch some TV » an introvert would be more precise and suggest « Let’s watch a documentary ».


But why does this matter for public speaking? Researchers at the University of Texas  found that words we use tend to reflect our self-defined personalities; (note that the study was in relation to blogs but as they are often more spontaneous and personal than other forms of public writing, with very little peer* control, it is fair to assume that they could mirror public speaking more accurately than other forms of the written word). Other studies have shown that people are also generally quite good at picking up on these clues and guessing, with a high degree of accuracy, the type of person the speaker is. So in public speaking, if we are trying to portray ourselves as someone ate ease in front of a crown and confident in what we are saying, we should also be paying attention to how we say things and not just what we are saying.

Other aspects of our personality can also come through from our instinctive choice of words. In the article, we are shown that how open-minded* we are is seen by how often we use words that relate to the senses, (touch, feel, smell, hear and see); if we refer a lot to strong emotions, particularly angst, we veer* towards neurosis; and if we use words relating to achievements and work, we are perceived as being conscientious.


In other words, if we have got our thoughts together, organised how we are going to get our point across, made sure there are no mistakes on the slides* and the hand-outs*, checked that we have used storytelling to the correct effect,  you will still need to think about what image of yourself you want your audience to have – and then choose your actual words carefully!

At Think Training we run courses on not just presentation techniques but on also how your message is getting across and being perceived. These courses also take in presentations done in a multi-cultural setting – or a culture that is different to your own, because the above is true for all cultures. Do not hesitate to contact us to see how we can help you make sure your presentation is perfect.


  • stressful – stressant
  • mounting – qui s’accumule
  • evidence – preuve
  • beginning – début
  • to shine – briller
  • the/a/an – le/la/la & un/une (pour comprendre quand on les utilse, contacter-nous)
  • glean – glaner
  • peer – pair
  • open-minded – ouvert d’ésprit
  • veer – dévier
  • slides – les diapos
  • handouts – polycopiés


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