Are You Guilty of This Goof That Hurts Your Credibility?

Patricia Fripp Presentation Expert Helps You Build Your Credibility
Presentation Expert Patricia Fripp explains how to avoid this common mistake that hurts your credibility.

When I am working with speech coaching clients or delivering presentation skills training, I ask the question, “Are you guilty of this goof that can hurt your credibility?”

If you’re asking yourself what difference it could make, I’ll tell you. A huge one! In any professional setting, you are hired because what you say sounds worth listening to. In the case of a speaker, consultant, or coach, you are hired because what you say sounds worth paying for.

All fuzzy, clumsy, and unclear language will destroy your credibility and your claim to professionalism. You might as well be delivering your message in Valley Girl speak, grinding your toe in the rug and murmuring, “Whatever.”

Fifteen times in a thirteen-minute period.

That’s how often Steve Forbes, President, and CEO of Forbes Inc and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine, did it during an otherwise brilliant presentation in New York, August 2008 at the National Speakers Association convention. It bothers me so much I can’t forget. Once you become aware of it in others, it will drive you crazy as well.

President Obama did it twice…

…while he was on The Tonight Show talking to Jay Leno. And many other times in otherwise great presentations.

My high-level corporate clients do it—including Presidents, Chief Financial Officers, and Sales Vice Presidents of America’s greatest companies.

Newscasters on every network do it.

Celebrity speakers, best-selling authors, and top consultants do it. That is before I work with them and make them aware of it.

Each time they do, I reach over and give their hands a quick slap. In a virtual coaching session, I make sure I see them slap their hands. I do it with them and suffer as well.  When they ask, “How can I kick the habit? Nobody ever told me I did it so much.” I tell them, “You will not improve what you are not aware of. My job is to bring it to your attention. Why not give your friends, spouse, and even your peers permission to tell you when it happens? Those around you will not tell you unless you say, ‘Please, I need your help.’”

First, notice when you do it. Second, recognize the negative impact. Third, replace this blunder with what is more appropriate.

You may not have noticed this verbal affliction 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 in the news and commercials, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet. It crosses all professions and levels of education. Recently, I counted dozens of examples at a four-day meeting with some of the most brilliant and successful professional speakers and consultants in the U.S who are in a Mastermind group with me. Even you may be doing it!

What is this crime against Credibility?

Stuff is rubbish. Vague language damages your 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.”

Even communication experts are guilty. I maintain that professional speakers, coaches, and consultants are paid for their lifetime knowledge, innovative ideas, leading-edge strategies, and, most important of all, their eloquence in putting their ideas across to their audiences. Yet, I overhear these communicators saying to each other, “The group loved my stuff” or “I gave them my best stuff.”

At a dramatic time in our nation’s history when precise and powerful communication is most needed, employees and sales teams, many of whom have English as a second or third language, are hearing this vague, imprecise language from their corporate leaders. Sales professionals in my sales presentation skills training are talking about their products and high-ticket technology in the same non-specific, low-value way.

Even worse than “stuff” is “and stuff.”

Some individuals don’t seem to know that a period at the end of a sentence is a great way to stop. I’ve heard:

“This will decrease absenteeism and stuff…” and “We had a great conversation and stuff…”

In Shakespeare’s time, “stuff” meant woven cloth as in “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, leadership messages, and sales presentations with rubbish?

When we communicate and use the word “stuff” we are not being specific! As I frequently say, “Specificity builds credibility.”

Each time one of my speaking clients says “stuff,” I ask, “If it were not ‘stuff’ what would it be?” Many of my clients are amazed and frankly horrified at how often they use the word, even those with graduate degrees. Yet, their education isn’t obvious by their language.

Do not dumb down your language or try to impress with your vast vocabulary. Just get in the habit of being clear, concise, and specific.

Use quality words in your conversation.

Specificity builds credibility

Why not record your team meetings and conversations in Zoom? Or your side of a telephone conversation? Or a family dinner? Become aware.


First, notice when you say it.

Second, recognize the negative impact on your credibility.

Third, replace the blunder word “stuff” with what is more accurate.

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“Your presentations on storytelling and superstar sales presentations and executive speech coaching have had a tremendous impact on our business.”

– Tom Esposito, Director Channel Marketing, Zebra Technologies

Companies that want to drive sales and gain a competitive edge hire Patricia Fripp to help them improve their important conversations and presentations. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance wrote, “One of the best ways to invest in success is to learn presentation skills from Patricia Fripp.” Fripp was named one of the “Top 25 Women in Sales” and is among the “Top 30 Coaching Gurus.”

Need help for you or your team on improving important conversations and presentations? The Fripp Customized Approach will work for you. Contact Fripp today!