Executive Speech Coach Patricia Fripp Talks to Mr. President

Are You Guilty?
The Unconscious Goof that Can Hurt Your Credibility

This week I have enjoyed presenting and coaching at the National Speakers Association members in Salt Lake City and now Richmond, Virginia. As is my usual habit I add a day or two for site seeing.

If you have ever heard me give a speech or seminar about taking your speaking from Good to Great you know I HATE the word "STUFF." My professional speaker pals in both cities have been coached and everything time they say the word it is brought to their attention.

You may not have noticed it yet, but once you do, you’ll have fun spotting examples everywhere. Some of your friends and associates are guilty. The blight has invaded television, newspapers, and magazines. It crosses all professions and levels of education. What is this Crime Against Credibility?

It’s a single, suddenly-popular buzzword that makes me feel like fingernails screeching on a blackboard every time I hear it. It’s “stuff.”

In Shakespeare’s time, “stuff” meant woven cloth—“such stuff as dreams are made on.” It has come to mean “miscellaneous” and even acquired the negative connotation of junk, debris, or rubbish. Surely, you don’t want to clutter your speaking with rubbish?

The worst thing about “stuff” is that it is not specific! As my associate David Palmer has programmed me to think, “Specificity builds credibility.”

Each time one of my speaking clients says “stuff,” I ask what exactly they mean to say. Some are amazed at how often they use the word, even people with PhD’s. Yet, their education isn’t obvious in their language because of that one useless and irritating word.

If you’re asking yourself what difference could it make, I’ll tell you. It makes a huge difference.  Language that is fuzzy, clumsy, and unclear destroys your credibility and your claim to professionalism.

Last night I joined thousands of other viewers watching President Obama…a truly dynamic speaker…on the Jay Leno Show…a truly nice guy!

Mr President he said STUFF three times. Please continue to model how leaders should speak…without the stuff.