The Power of Words

Leadership Communication

Words, words, words. We are surrounded by them on every device, beit an iPad, smartphone, desktop, radio or TV. A deluge of words is created every day in the form of news, blogs, vloggs, videos, tweets - you name it. As of January 2018 there were 1.3 billion websites on the internet. Global traffic on the internet is now being measured in zettabytes and yottabytes - in other words, overwhelmingly large amounts of words. And all these words, all these messages, are jostling to be read, to be heard, and to be noticed.

So how can you make your words work harder?


How can you make your words more meaningful to customers, employees and to your management team?

Without preparation and thought any business message runs the risk of being lacklustre. The audience disengages, doesn't hear (or read) and certainly does not remember what has been said.

You may have only one opportunity to get your message across, and to get the result you want your words must have impact.

Words don’t all serve the same purpose - they have different roles.

Let me highlight just 3 of these:

1. Functional uses

Words help our listeners to 'see' the structure of what we are going to say. They also help the audience understand when we are transitioning from one point to the next. They highlight key points in a message. They act as primers - letting the audience know the nature of the message coming up next. This role of words is key if you want your audience to follow you, understand the direction you're taking - and process your messages easily.

2. Memorability

You may not want your audience to remember everything you say, but you will want them to remember some of your messages. Choice words help to emphasise key points. Emphasis helps a message to stand out. Messages which stand out will be remembered. The best way to achieve this is through the judicious use of figures of speech.

Repetition, the rule of three, chiasmus, adding in conjunctions, leaving conjunctions out, metaphors, similes - there are literally hundreds of techniques which can be deployed. Think of the famous lines you remember from any speech. Whose words come to mind?

Martin Luther King?

Chairman Mao?

Andy Warhol?

What about the speeches and interviews made by business people. Whose words come to mind now?

Steve Jobs?

Warren Buffet?

Mary Barra?

Take a moment to consider the words that you DO remember. There's probably a figure of speech at the heart of the message.

Here are some oft-quoted words:

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."

Warren Buffet

"If you can't feed a team with two pizzas, it's too large."

Jeff Bezos

"Great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people."

Steve Jobs

What techniques are in use in these quotes? What helps to make them memorable?

3. Emotional Triggers

Words can leave you cold or words can be emotive.

Take the following examples of what is essentially the same message:

"We have to increase our sales by 10%."

"Let’s get out there and sell, sell, sell!"

"We have to put some sizzle into our selling."

"Let's knock the socks off the competition!"

Which of these would get your top line moving?

Every day business messages (as well as great speeches) can - and should - operate on more than one level: they should appeal to people’s aspirations and fears - as well as to their reason and logic.

By harnessing the power of words any business leader, any manager of people, anyone who is outward-facing will be more effective.

To find out more about the Speaking as a Leader program being delivered to business leaders and managers around the world, please contact Simon Cannon, a director at Professional Voice, on:

+44 (0)208 579 6662