5 things Indian speakers should never say on stage

Want to sound like a professional speaker? Then avoid these phrases.

Image credit: TEDx Gateway, TED

As I media person, I get invited to plenty of conferences and events. I’ve sat through dozens of PowerPoint presentations and listened to many interesting panel discussions. When one has been through all that, one can’t help being judgemental and making mental notes about the speakers and sessions. One also tends to notice a distinct pattern, with some oh-so-annoying clichés.  I write about these in this post. I also observe that the international speakers are more articulate, and more prepared with their notes. Though not all of them are. I am not making a distinction between Indian and international speakers here, but the point is that Indian speakers do tend to use clichés more often. Here are a few:

  1. I am standing between you and lunch

Really? Who cares! We came here for knowledge and information. To network and gain new insights, trends, and updates. Just because your presentation happens to fall in the last slot of the morning agenda, that doesn’t mean we are eager for you to give a rushed and abridged version.  So get on with it mate and do what you came here to do. If your presentation were lousy, you would find half the audience hanging out in the service area, waiting for the buffet counters to open. Nobody’s stomach is complaining yet!

2. Am I audible? Can you hear me at the back?

Our AV systems and microphones fail occasionally, but not as much as we saw in the old days. Remember the wailing PA systems in the college auditorium? That’s called ‘feedback’, and it is caused because the presenter got too close to the loudspeakers with the microphone in his hand. These days we use wireless microphones, and if they have a weak charge, they don’t transmit. Or one may have forgotten to turn them on.

I notice that many speakers like to ask, “Am I audible?” with the microphone volume turned all the way up! Of course, you are! My hearing aid just blew because you said that so loudly!

Stop saying that! It would do you good to familiarise yourself with the use of the equipment as the crew is fitting the wireless transmitter and lapel mic to your jacket.  Make sure the hand mic is switched on, and stop asking everyone if you are ‘audible’.

Didn’t they tell you that you were the loudest one in the room?

3. XYZ is nothing but ….

We hear this one in school, so it has roots in our education system. If our teachers say things like this, it gets stuck in our heads. When explaining a term or concept, avoid the “is nothing but” clause.

Surely, it is about ‘something’ —  it cannot be nothing!

4. Do the needful

Please do the needful. That’s babu English.

It ‘needs’ to be done. There is urgency.

If you must make a request, say it with a better selection of words.

5.  No problem!

This one gets on my nerves. It seems just about everyone says ‘no problem’ these days — on the phone, in meetings, and on stage. Say it once if you must, but this should not become your standard response to someone who is addressing you.

There are challenges and there are solutions. In school, we were taught to solve math ‘problems’ and theorems. But we never said ‘no problem’ for something that was easy to answer!

Instead, we cheekily wrote: QED  at the end of a theorem — Quite Easily Done!  Actually, that’s Latin and really means: “quod erat demonstrandum”.  That loosely translates to: “we have done what was to be demonstrated” or “what was to be shown.”

There are many more gems to share, but I wanted to keep this post brief.

Have you heard of any good ones lately?






Brian Pereira

Brian Pereira is an Indian journalist based in Mumbai. He has 25 years of journalism experience. Brian is the former Editor of CHIP and InformationWeek magazines and has written technology articles for India's leading newspaper groups such as The Times of India and Indian Express Newspapers. Brian also writes on Aviation, startups, and he covers topics directed at small and medium businesses. Email: Twitter: @brian9p Linkedin:

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