Can I Use Profanity in a Speech or Podcast? (Part 1)

Swearing in a podcast or during a speech -- does it help get your point across or just alienate your audience? It's not so simple. The Public Speaker tackles this thorny issue in Part 1 of this series on profanity.

Lisa B. Marshall
January 17, 2014
Episode #234

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Question #3: Is using profanity worth the potential backlash?

Even if I wanted to swear during a podcast, I can’t.  My contract prohibits me from doing that. It would be stupid of me to risk my relationship with Quick and Dirty Tips over a couple of swear words.

You might think that football coaches would be given a free pass on profanity. Sports and swearing go together like pizza and beer. But one football coach lost his job over a profanity-laced motivational speech that was leaked online. When I watched the speech I saw a frustrated coach trying to find some way to get through to his team. But his superiors saw it differently and he was terminated from his coaching position.

Interestingly, an informal Huffington Post survey recently addressed the situation, asking voters, "Should Abel have been removed from his coaching position?" and just about 60% responded with "No, it's not bad enough for a firing." while a little over 30% responded with "Definitely, that speech is completely inappropriate."

Whenever you use profanity in public speaking, you risk a backlash. You risk not being asked back to the conference next year. You risk being replaced by someone deemed less offensive. You risk alienating your audience. Think about whether it’s worth it before you choose to include profanity.  

Back to my “it depends” answer. The vast majority of the time I would say don’t do it. Find clearer, less offensive ways to make your point. But there are times when profanity is an effective way to get your message out. The intensity and emotion that generally come with profanity can be very persuasive.

Join me for the second part of this podcast series next time when we’ll look at examples of when including profanity in speech (or podcast) might be the right choice.

This is Lisa B. Marshall, helping you maximize sales, manage perceptions, and enhance leadership through keynotes, workshops, books, and online courses. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.

Check out my new podcast, Smart Talk, at smarttalksuccess.com.  You'll hear my interview with Rory Albanese, Executive Producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on how to connect using humor.  You'll also hear Laura Sturaitis, EVP at Businesswire talk about women and leadership.  Also, you'll hear a two-part in-depth interview with Pamela Slim,  New York Times bestselling author talk about her brand new book, Body of Work.  

Listen to Smart Talk: Inspiring Conversation with Exceptional People by visiting smarttalksuccess.com

Swear words and shocked audience images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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