Column: Verbs that mean business


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

You’ve gone over your expertly tailored business suit with your lithium battery-powered lint roller in the executive bathroom. You’ve humbly positioned your luxury watch so it peeks just so outside your shirt cuffs (which are crisp and precisely the right length). Now, you’re assuming your power stance at the front of the conference room, getting ready to share your big PowerPoint presentation (or—as it’s known in startup circles—your “slide deck”).

You’re about to deliver a crushing dose of Six Sigma business power to the other suits sitting around the conference table, who flew in for this meeting in their corporate jets. But, to get the seven-figure multi-national merger deal done, you’re going to need one more key ingredient: power verbs.

We all know that verbs are action words, but some of them are puny, anemic and overused. If you use weak verbs in your presentation, the overseas investors are going to start yawning and looking at their own (probably Swiss) luxury watches, wondering at which Michelin-star restaurant they should dine later tonight.

Let’s take the word “said” as an example. It’s boring, yet we drop it in by default into our everyday communication. Instead, consider more powerful verbs like yelled, demanded, explained or insisted.

“Walk” is another verb that screams “weak sauce.” No one just “walks” anymore, unless you want to walk straight to the unemployment office. Instead, consider using strut, dart, march, mosey or meander. See what I mean? Talk about “walking” like a boss, and you’ll soon be the boss. You can almost smell the rich mahogany of your boss’s desk, can’t you?

Now, let’s take a look at “look.” No one even gives it a second glance. Instead of look, use a more creative, evocative word like gape, examine, notice, glare or stare.

Finally, let’s talk about “talk.” Talking is for career mid-level managers (at best). Instead, use a stronger verb like spout, reveal, divulge, gab or mumble.

Power verbs will win you friends and influence people, especially executive corporate vice presidents of overseas fiduciary acquisitions. Using power verbs will knock the designer socks off your potential investors. Replacing boring, vanilla verbs with power verbs will give you an instant air of confidence and success. This tact will win you fans everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom.