June 3, 2009

Empty calories vs. nutritional value

To add to my list of unoriginal clichés and tired statistics, how about we stop with the use of pointless dictionary definitions?

I visited a website yesterday for speakers, and there was the dictionary definition of "presenter," right in the middle of the page, complete with pronunciation, in case I didn't know how to say it already.

This is what I consider a space filler, or in the case of a live presentation, a time waster. Unless you truly need to define something for your audience, because it's unusual or complex, or a new concept for them, using a dictionary definition is just a cutesy way of killing time or filling space on a page.

Like a soda or a bag of chips that fills you up with lots of calories but no nutritional value, a dictionary definition takes up space in your presentation where you could be giving the audience something useful and relevant.

More on clichés and originality here:

Cliché finder

Metaphorically speaking

New cliché resource

The grandmother cliché

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Dr. Jim Anderson said...

Ok, so putting a definition in the middle of something that you are saying is a bit odd. However, don't discount that it can be a good way to kick things off.

You'd be amazed at how often we think that we know what a word means when it actually has another meaning (case in point: one of the definitions of "presentation" is "gift" - what a nice way to think about giving a speech).

Also, where a word comes from can be a fantastic way to kick off a talk. For example the word "blackmail" had the original meaning as "From the practice of freebooting clan chieftains who ran protection rackets against Scottish farmers. Black from the evil of the practice."

Everything has its time and place.

- Dr. Jim Anderson
The Accidental Communicator Blog
"Learn How To intimately connect with your audience in order to make an lasting impact in their lives."

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I'm only referring to definitions that are obvious and boring. If you have a creative use for a definition that delights or surprises the audience, then of course that's a perfect use for it!

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