A pet peeve of mine is speakers who spend their entire message telling me how they did something, such as how they built their company or what’s important  to them about the topic, without ever inviting me and the rest of the audience to be a part of the conversation. That is taking the “I” use to an extreme, and I encourage you not to fall into that trap if you want to create a persuasive presentation! 

Look through your outline and speaker notes – If your don’t have one, join our free 5-day miniCourse -. How often do you see and “I†listed? If you have far more “I’s’ than “you’s” you may want to recalibrate a bit.

Here are some related issues that can throw you a curve, if you’re not careful:


When Is It Best to Refer to Yourself as ‘We’?

I recommend that if you’re part of an elected group, or a board of directors, a nonprofit, or a company, depending on the topic, you’ll be received better using the collective “we” to describe your point of view. For example, a vote to go ahead with a new stadium has gained a majority of the council. Or your team won an award. Similarly, if you’re a part of a research team or a sports team, employing the pronoun “we” will keep you from appearing too egotistical.

As the president of an association, you speak for the decisions of the board of directors, so a “we” is appropriate.

Answering a question posed by a reporter-especially a broad one like, “Why did you decide to do…?â€-gives you a platform quite similar to starting a speech or a presentation. You also need to decide whether to use “we†or “I†in your answer.


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When to Use ‘I’?

As we explained in 15 Public Speaking Secrets from Legendary TED Talks being yourself really paysoff. When you relate incidents from your childhood or travels, your own caretaking experiences, on-the-job happenings with coworkers, or client problems, the conversation will be more credible and three-dimensional when told from your own vantage as an “I.”

I believe it’s the optimal pronoun when you’re describing your own, personal experience with the topic, with a product, service, or problem. Further, you’re less likely to be challenged as the authority when you stand strongly behind your words by sharing them from a first person perspective.


Where to add ‘You’ in a Persuasive Presentation? 

A woman sitting at a table with papers and a laptop.
Too much “l” or “we” by a speaker can result in an unintentional disconnect.

It’s fine to tell a story in first person, saying “I†to disclose what happened and what you felt, saw, tasted, or experienced. But to maintain interest and especially to lead your listeners toward an action you want them to take in a persuasive presentation, it’s vital to strategically sprinkle “you” throughout your remarks. Here are some examples of phrases that you can try out:


  • “You may agree that.. “
  • â€Your experience may be different and…
  • “You may find that..†
  • “You may know that…†
  • “Your doctor might have…â€
  • “You might have heard that…†


To maintain interest and especially to lead your listeners toward an action you want them to take in a persuasive presentation, it’s vital to strategically sprinkle “you” throughout your remarks

-Anne B. Freedman


Recently a university professor was invited to speak to one of my business groups to update us on the global economy regarding promising emerging markets. He reported that the impact of the once-thriving BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, and China-was waning. Taking over are the MINT nations which include Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey.

His message was neutral, factual, and reporter-like, but there was no personal warmth or wit in his remarks. If only he had simply added, “If you were to go to Mexico today, compared to just a few years ago, you would see..” or a statement that seems more personal: “Despite what you’re hearing about in the media, Turkey is…”


Extracting the Stories Within 

Telling a story is a powerful technique to keep your audience’s attention. Some people seem to bubble over with personal stories and experiences to punctuate their presentations or speeches. They either mesmerize or bore you with tales about their dog, cat, kids, or in-laws, a recent vacation or the new love in their life. You are either stuck listening or happily hearing the tale unfold, depending on what has happened, how well the story is revealed, and its relevance to you. 

When you craft a message, it’s always helpful to plot out your main ideas or your singular issue early in the process. At the same time, to help assure that you won’t fail to connect with your listeners, reach within to find a relevant personal anecdote that will reinforce at least one of your points. Then, climb back into your memory bank and capture still another episode from your past experience that will help drive home what you’re trying to get across. You can use an example of how well a program or product worked or describe a disaster or close call that others can learn to avoid.


Too Far Away to Persuade Your Audience

A visiting rabbi at my synagogue gave a sermon about how dangerous certain holy and historic places are in Israel now due to the unrest in the Middle East. He described how years ago he’d gone to pray at one of these ancient sites and how frustrated he was that he could no longer safely go there, closing with a wish that he might one day be able to visit there peacefully again. 

A simple reach out to the audience with a phrase like, “If you’d been in that cave with me, you would have seen…” was all that he needed to help us relate to his loss. It would have removed the invisible wall he’d erected between himself and the congregation. Too much “l” or “we” by a speaker can result in an unintentional disconnect.

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