There are a few phrases that always hit my ear badly when I hear speakers use them in response to an audience member’s question.
They’re all variations on the same theme; you can probably come up with several similar ones of your own. Each can make the person who utters them come across as annoyed, if not downright peevish.
The phrases are:
• “As I mentioned earlier”
• “As I already said in my email”
• “As I said before”
• “As I’ve already mentioned”
• “Like I previously stated”
• “As I wrote in the memo you received”
• “Like I said”
• “As I stated earlier”
• “Like we discussed”
• “As we covered at the beginning”
In my experience, most speakers who utter these types of lines don’t do so because they’re annoyed. I’d guess many of them aren’t even aware that they said these lines at all. Nonetheless, they can come across as an accusation to the audience—I already spoke about this! Why weren’t you listening to me?
Even though it can feel annoying to receive an audience question about material you already covered, keep in mind that: The person who asked the question might have entered the room late due to an unexpected doctor’s appointment; their mind may have drifted because the information you were sharing frightened them; their attention span waned simply because they’re human. Heck, it may even be a sign that you’re a sleep-inducing speaker!
The bottom line is that if you’re asked to restate something that you said earlier, just say it a second time.
Brad Phillips is author of The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He is also the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm, and blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first appeared.