6 fundamental phrases every speaker should use

Don’t know the answer to a question? Disagree with an audience member? Here’s what you should say.

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Want to look confident? Want to hold your audience’s attention? Want to make your point stick?

You can do all the tricks and tropes out there, but these six phrases almost always grip the listener, make the speaker look strong, save the speaker from trouble, and invite real connection with the audience. Keep these statements in your back pocket for a stronger speech:

1. “I don’t know.

The power of this simple statement increases with your level of expertise, yet it works for all speakers. Refusing to go beyond what you know shows good sense, and helps you avoid a multitude of problems later. It also exudes confidence.

Other ways to say “I don’t know” gracefully are:

Not answering a question? Work a rhetorical question into your remarks, and answer your own question with an “I don’t know.” This is a strong way to underscore uncertainty on an issue, or powerfully establish your own place in the discussion.

2. “I disagree.”

Many speakers, aiming to please the audience, feel they must agree with what audience members say. But confusing agreement with acknowledgment, or with your credibility, means your speech can and will go wrong.

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