Fit Focus Flair

Lesson 1: Adding flair to your presentation – remove abstract language

A noun, as you know, is a word that describes a thing.  An object, a town, a cat, a condition. An abstract noun is a word that describes a thing that has no physical reality. Abstract nouns can describe feelings, qualities, ideas and thoughts. Abstract nouns can describe feelings such as helplessness and sorrow; qualities like quality, courage and reliability, ideas such as equality and freedom, and thoughts such as concepts and creativity. When the abstract is overdone it can cause problems for readers and listeners.

“Pseud’s Corner” in the UK satirical magazine “Private Eye”,  is filled with examples of speech and prose where people seem to be constructing whole articles out of abstract nouns.

“In this feminist exploration of the erotics of the marketplace, Hegel’s notion of property and Lacan’s idea of the phallus serve parallel functions in the creation of the sense of subjectivity necessary for self-actualisation.”

If you combine loads of abstract nouns with the passive voice and add a few technical terms you can create written works so dense that they are impenetrable.

So if you mean a telephone say “telephone” not ‘novel communication facility’. You may know what you mean, make sure that the audience does. “Woolly” speech is usually full of abstractions and is often a sign of unclear thinking on the part of the speaker. At worst it can come across as ambiguous, pompous often misleading and just helps to distance the audience from you and the stuff you’re trying to put over.

Find the second lesson in this series here.

This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey


  1. Pingback: Lesson 6: Use everything in the verbal bag of tricks, but sparingly

  2. Pingback: 3 Fatal Diseases for the Corporate Presenter- How sick are you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


To Top