I have watched, made, and mentored many pitches. Pitches from salespeople, as well as company executives. Pitches from prospective employees, as well as potential employers. From the process of obtaining grant money from the government to convincing a supremely credentialed expert and academic to sit on a Board of Advisors: there is a process of credibility evaluation that happens at the micro-level of individual words that are spoken.
Based on what I’ve seen and experienced, I have decided to eradicate a simple word from my vocabulary. That word is ‘actually.’
The word actually means that everything leading up to the word was either incomplete or inaccurate. It can even imply deception. It is a devious symbol of uncertainty and lack of credibility.
My basic premise is that extra words when making a sales pitch or an investor pitch do not help, and often can hurt the outcome. Extra words create needless cranial activity in the listener unrelated to the purpose or goal of the pitch and often serve to trigger the unconscious thought that there’s more than what was heard.
For example, when the question is asked: “what’s the sales revenue?” one answer could be “$30,000 a month.” Another answer could be “$2Million.” These answers carry a lot of unspoken and assumed context for most business people and satisfy the needs behind the question.
For example, “$30,000 a month” infers that the revenue is for a current or recent month and is a reflection of gross receipts without taking any normal or extraordinary costs into account. This answer also makes no promises that this monthly revenue marker was at this point the year before or that it will be at this point 6 months hence. Similarly, “$2Million” infers an annual gross revenue with an unspoken promise that this number will appear on some form of financials.
Compare these answers to the version that includes the credibility killer, actually:
What’s your sales revenue, Wei PIng?
Actually, its $30,000 a month.
Its $30,000 a month, actually.
What’s your sales revenue, Lamar?
Can you feel the difference? There is a clear indication that the answering speaker knows or believes that there is additional information that is important to the listener. And its not being disclosed. What will come next? Another follow-up question. The answering speaker is lucky if the follow-up question is spoken out loud. Even then, their credibility has just taken a hit.
Actually is not the only word that acts as an instant indicator of something being wrong with the spoken presentation, the presenter, or both. By starting with this word, others will be eradicated easily as my conscious awareness of these subtle and culturally instilled speaking habits roots them out and eliminates them from my speaking once and for all.