Words Matter: “This Will be Complicated”

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

This is one of the things not to say when giving a presentation, setting up a discussion on a topic or trying to get somebody’s input. Or in a blog post.


It can set people up to not listen fully to what the message will be. In the case of a blog post, they may stop reading because they aren’t interested in something complicated.

“Oh, this will be complicated. And I haven’t had a cup of coffee, yet. I won’t get it.”

“I was never good at complicated things.”

If the audience reacts that way, those specific audience members are lost – or at least there’s a chance they won’t be getting as much out of the discussion as they could with a different setup.

Now, on the flip side there might be some people who like the challenge.

“Oh, this will be complicated. Ready to figure this out.”

But, why take a chance? What if everyone has the first reaction?

Plus, will it really be that complicated?

In addition to this, I also try not to say things like this:

  • I only slept 2 hours last night, so please bear with me.

  • I’ve only done this for two months, but let’s get started.
  • This is going to be a little dull.

Statements like this undermine our credibility, so why do we use them? Perhaps, we think these are important facts to our story? But do they add anything? I think they don’t. Do you concentrate more (better?) if somebody says: “This will be complicated”?

I know I don’t.

Show, Don’t Tell

OK, this will be complicated … Just kidding. Perhaps it goes back to my storytelling background. In stories (written, video, etc.) we want to show what is going on. Here are the details and the facts! Here’s what we know.

Adding descriptions like This is great; complicated; tiring don’t add much.

People may have different thresholds or definitions for those terms. Going up a couple of flights of stairs might not be tiring for the person who runs 6 miles a day. But it might be for another person.

Can’t Say That, So What Do I Say?

I try to think of my audience. Who are they? What am I trying to get across to them?

What joke has worked before? If you have to start a presentation with a joke sometimes I jokingly start with the rules and call them “Rules, Rules, Rules” on a slide.

Rule No. 1: If you have a question, asking it will increase the chance of it being answered. Questions are allowed.

Usually, people laugh and get a bit looser. Now, they aren’t rolling on the floor laughing, but it can still be an easy “ice breaker.” Questions are soon asked, which helps with immediate feedback, interest and audience engagement.

Then, I like to talk about why we are here: “Communication channels have changed and since they can’t keep me off Twitter, websites and YouTube – all at the same time – let’s talk about that.”

“Who has Tweeted or checked something online since I started talking?” (Only a good question if people actually have done that. 🙂 )

Finding an example that relates to the specific audience can be a challenge. Sometimes if an example doesn’t work, I would explain why I used it.

“When I gave a similar presentation to Group A professionals they reacted like this. Why do you think you reacted differently?”

And the group discussion begins!


I try not to use words that set up people’s thinking in a negative way.

“This will be complicated” – Oh no, can I handle it?
“I’ve had a rough night.” – This guy will drag us through a boring diiscussion.
“I really don’t know much about this, but …” – Then why are you talking about it? Are you going to ask somebody else about it?
“I have 59 slides.” – Will he read them to us and give us a copy?

Instead pick words that move our message forward. Answer questions, summarize knowledge, offer insights. Also, ask questions. It will increase the chances of it being answered … and increase audience participation.

Words matter. Pick them carefully.