by Peter Watts
Using “but” in business presentations reduces your influence.
- It raises defensiveness in others by implying disagreement or excuses
- The word sounds dull; consider it’s phonic counterparts: gut, cut, hut, shut
In business presentations, it’s fundamentally a defensive, whiney word to avoid
Wherever you use “but”, the word “and” can usually be deployed instead. As a tool “and” is a constructive joining word, as opposed to the wet blanket “but”.
Consider these examples to see how the deployment of one or the other changes the tone:
“We want to expand but competition is increasing. How do we do it?”
The use of “but” depresses the call to action: “How do we do it?”
“We want to expand and competition is increasing. How do we do it?”
Replacing “but” with “and” shifts focus from let’s whinge, to let’s win
Now consider these two:
“Our community is growing but our infrastructure can’t keep up” = Whinge
“Our community is growing and our infrastructure can’t keep up” = Call to Action
“Climate change is a threat but we need fossil fuels” = Whinge
“Climate change is a threat and we need fossil fuels” = Call to Action
While the b-word does have it’s uses when consciously deployed in speech-writing, it’s the unconscious usages that we aim to zap.
Try recording your next piece of public speaking. When you play it back, count how many instances of “but” that you bought into your speech, especially during Q&A sessions. If there are more than five, then your influence level will be improved with a but-reduction.