Replace “You” with “We” in Your Presentations

Updated: 6 days ago

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Listen closely the next time a technical specialist or a self-proclaimed expert delivers a presentation. The chances are good that they will say something like, "You need to do this…" or "You calculate this by…." And they will say it not just once, but rather over and over.

The presenter is lecturing.

And it is condescending.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

At best, the technical specialist is a professional instructor. Sometimes, we simply forget we are not in a classroom. Just remind yourself that no one signed up and paid good money for a course,

At worst, the technical specialist is making a statement (either consciously or subconsciously) that they are superior. That is bad form in any collaborative environment.

A Different Strategy when You are the Boss

Managers and leaders are often taught to avoid saying “I" and say "we" or "you." In this case, "you" is intended to give credit to a team (your subordinates) rather than taking credit for yourself. Hopefully, the difference is obvious for the case where you are the boss versus where you are a subject matter expert in a collaborative process.

Moving Forward

Remove condensing language from your presentations by practicing replacing “you” with “we.” It can be hard work, but it is relatively simple.

If you feel that saying "we" is too disingenuous if you are not indeed part of the team, then try something like "this organization" or "this team." I use this language sometimes, but it usually feels a little awkward. “We” is easier and more fluid.

Make some notes on the next ten presentation you sit through by technical specialists. Most of the presentations will get it wrong. Imagine how the boss’s boss feels. The experience will sharpen your resolve to use “we” instead of “you” when doing presentations.