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How To Speak Like An Arrogant Snob

Posted on May 23, 2012 by Leslie Dickson

Updated September 19th, 2018

In your lifetime, you’ll run into a lot of snobbish people. Most of the time you’ll experience something subtle, like a judgmental look when you wear the wrong outfit or eat junk food, or a scoff when you tell a friend your favorite song is, “Eye of the Tiger.”

Regardless of the time, place, or situation, the message is clear: I am judging you. And I am better than you.

However, not all snobbish behavior is a reaction to personal preferences in music, movies, and food. There are surefire ways to talk down to your presentation audience like you’re a true member of the high and mighty elite.

1. Use Flowery Language & Technical Terminology

As I author this composition, I earnestly yearn to overwhelm my readers with my incalculable vocabulary (and mastery of Microsoft Word’s thesaurus).

In an effort to sound intelligent, novice speakers often load their speeches with language straight from Shakespeare. There’s only one problem: Your audience isn’t there for a staged reading of Hamlet. Therefore, an excess of overblown, unfamiliar language will make your presentation difficult to follow and leave them feeling less intelligent.

Technical jargon can be a similar problem. Using industry-specific abbreviations and terminology among experts is a great way to indicate, “I’m one of you.” By contrast, an audience that barely knows what Facebook is will be lost immediately if your first sentence mentions the switch to “Timeline.”

The Fix – When you’re preparing your speech, be sure to ask yourself if your wording is appropriate for your intended audience.

2. Find A Way to Insult Them

Almost everyone knows a good lawyer joke or two. So, of course, it would be great for me to open a speech to a bunch of lawyers with a couple of light jabs at their profession. There’s just one problem: I’m not a lawyer.

Telling a joke at the expense of other people is insulting. Regardless of your best intentions, it’s a surefire way to lose their respect.

The Fix – If you are going to tease your audience in any way, make sure it’s at your own expense. Doctors can tease doctors and lawyers can tease lawyers. Anything else is one-sided and mean-spirited because the audience has no means of fighting back.

3. Put Your Audience Down

While using fancy language and jargon is an attempt to put yourself above your audience, treating them like simple-minded fools is demeaning. Even novice speakers know not to call the crowd a bunch of idiots, but there are more innocent speaking habits that have terrible implications.

Some speakers begin their speeches with a rhetorical question the audience has no way of answering. It’s a simple attempt to be provocative and get people thinking. However, the message conveyed is, “I’m sooooo much smarter than you.” Likewise, salespeople will very subtly try to put down their competitors, a tactic that is a real turnoff if your customer currently buys from them. Motivational speakers are similarly guilty when they imply everyone is living life the wrong way and needs to make drastic changes. And if you want to clear the room of good vibes, just use an excessive amount of sarcasm.

The Fix – If you want to avoid coming off as a snob to your audience, create a conversation that puts you on a level playing field with those in the crowd. Storytelling allows your listeners to connect with you and relate to what you are about to say. If you can hook your audience with a good story that is relatable, you have a much better chance of them actually listening and taking something away from your presentation.

At VoicePRO, we offer a program on effective presentation skills that will help you master the art of public speaking without sounding like an arrogant snob.

The Hallmarks of Ineffective Communication

When it comes to giving a convincing speech that not only conveys your point but also captivates your audience, you certainly don’t want to start by sounding like an arrogant snob — that’s a surefire way to lose your audience’s interest quickly and waste your presentation on ears already turned against you. In addition to insults, showy language and condescension, there are a number of other arrogant or ineffective communication behaviors you want to avoid during public speaking, like these:

  • Too Much Formality: Just like you don’t want to use language that’s excessively complex or flowery to separate yourself from the audience, you also shouldn’t be too stiff or reserved in delivering your speech. While you might think formality is proper and professional, it can have the same effect in distancing your audience as speaking like a snob — in fact, it can even be mistaken for snobbery sometimes. Don’t be afraid to incorporate more conversational language and even humorous stories to engage your audience and make them feel like you’re speaking to them, not at them.
  • Pompous Patronization: Similar to putting your audience down by posing questions they can’t answer or flaunting your knowledge condescendingly, overexplaining to your audience or treating the speech more like an instructive lecture can be patronizing and come off as pompous. Your audience is looking to be engaged and interested — not treated like children with no knowledge. When planning your tone and your information for the speech, remember to speak to your audience as equals.
  • Excessive Vagueness: Are you making a specific point or attempting to demonstrate a trend with supporting information in your speech? Make sure to be reasonably specific and provide evidence or examples. If you use vague information or generalizations, your audience may have reason to doubt both your sincerity and your qualifications.
  • Excessive Complexity: Vagueness and ineffective or irrelevant information can throw off your audience’s perceptions and paint you as unreliable — but on the other hand, posing extremely complex arguments and offering overly complicated information can repel your audience in the same way as snobbery. When constructing and delivering your speech, offer just the right amount of authenticity and supportive information without turning your audience off by seeming too technical.
  • Inappropriate Remarks: Offering levity in your speech to make it less stuffy and win over your audience can be a good idea — but there’s a fine line between tasteful jokes and jeopardizing professionalism when it comes to incorporating humor. If you do choose to use humor in a public speaking setting, make sure it is to the story you are telling. If your audience laughs, it is magical. If they don’t, it is still a relevant and engaging story that is both appropriate and professional.

Read these tips on how to develop communication skills that will help you to succeed in business and in life.

Deliver a Speech With Confidence

Inexperienced speakers worry about themselves and what the audience will think of them. As a result, many of them sound like snobs as they try to dazzle their audience with a huge vocabulary, jokes, and provocative gimmicks. If you truly want to impress your audience, speak to them as an equal and always keep their point of view in mind.

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Image provided by Jeremy Brooks

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