Articles for Association Use


Idioms, slang, and colloquialisms have their place in presentations, but you want to consider aspects of each. This consideration is indispensable now that video conferencing has made speaking in other regions of the U.S. and other countries more common than ever before. 


When speaking outside your your native region, idioms and slang often confuse your audiences, and no matter where you speak, colloquialisms can taint how your audiences perceive you. So, to help keep this from happening to you, let’s take a look at each of these often-overlooked pitfalls.



Idioms are words that are not accurately deducible outside of their context and have a particular meaning with specific groups of people. These groups are divided by geography, language, and sometimes age. For instance, “a drop in the bucket” literally means one drop of liquid in a bucket. But as an idiom, it means a small, inadequate, insufficient, or inconsequential amount compared to the amount needed. Some people may know this; others may not.


Over the years, I have made the mistake of including idioms in my presentations. I did not intend to use them, but once I did, they confused people. In one presentation, while speaking to a group of people from China, I used the term “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” After my presentation, a woman approached me and asked what that term meant. I explained that it means people find things they do not have to be more appealing than what they have. She thought for a second and said, “Oh, it’s like ‘the moon is just as round here as it is in their yard.’”



Slang can also be confusing. Think about words like “shotgun” (passenger’s seat in a car), “dying” (laughing or embarrassed), and “sick” (great, awesome). Imagine if you were in the audience and did not know this slang. How confused would you be?


While idioms and slang can sometimes be confusing, colloquialisms are not. However, they can help or hinder your presentation and influence how your audience perceives you.



A colloquialism is a word used in an informal manner. Most people will understand what they mean, but the circumstances of your presentation often dictate their use. 


Examples of colloquialisms include words and phrases such as “gonna,” “cuppa coffee,” and “whatcha doin.” These and others like them are considered informal and inappropriate for a formal presentation. However, this does not mean that people with formal positions cannot use colloquialisms in their presentations. For example, when wanting to sound more folksy, the head of a nation may say something like, “We’re gonna get this done!”


You want to be aware of words that have one meaning in your area and another meaning where you are speaking. For instance, if you are from the United States and speaking in England, using the word “suspenders” might cause a bit of confusion. In the U.S., “suspenders” refers to straps one wears to hold up pants. In England, this means lingerie that holds up stocking. In England, “braces” hold up pants, while in the U.S., this usually means medical devices on teeth or other parts of the body. If in Germany you were to say that you like going for a stroll in the mist, they would think it very odd as “mist” is a term for manure.


No matter where you speak, be sure to do your homework on words and phrases that could confuse, and for that matter, insult or annoy your audience. You do not want to convey an unintended meaning, nor do you want your audience to miss out on a part of your presentation as they attempt to figure out what you just said.

Peter George Speaker and Public Speaking Coach

Peter George


With a wealth of experience as a veteran speaker, public speaking coach, and acclaimed author, Peter has assisted over 300,000 executives, consultants, and professionals across 50 countries in harnessing the power of public speaking to increase their impact, influence, and income.


Peter’s notable achievements include authoring the six-time award-winning book, “The Captivating Public Speaker,” and pioneering the AMP’D Framework™, a methodology designed to empower speakers in crafting compelling messages tailored to their audiences.


Drawing from personal triumph over speech impediments like a lisp and stutter, Peter believes everyone should be able to effectively communicate their advice, expertise, and experiences.

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