As an audience member, there is nothing worse than listening to a speaker who lacks clarity, whose speech is filled with complexity beyond all comprehension, and whose purpose for speaking is merely to receive praise. A few weeks ago, I sat listening to a speaker who had no idea what they were talking about. The person talked a little about the weather, then turned a corner into talking about how the earth is made of iron, and followed this with a transition into a journey they took on a sailboat when they were twelve. The conclusion attempted to piece together the process of recycling, and how we should all do our part to save the whales.
I looked around the room, and people had strings of drool attached from their open mouth to the desk. They, like me, were showing CLEAR SIGNS that the speaker had failed to make their speech either interesting, clear, or memorable.
As a speaker, it’s your job to be good. It’s your job to be interesting. It’s your job to be clear. And it is your absolute job to be memorable.
How do you do this?
Of course, nothing comes immediately. Learning to speak interestingly, clearly and memorably takes time and patience. But, remembering these things will at least begin to make your talks better….for both you and the audience.
Most importantly, know the intention of your speech. If you’re not sure of why you are talking, then don’t talk. Figure this first. Why do you want to talk? Do you want to receive praise? Or do you want the audience to do something, learn something, feel something? If you do not know this, then you’re not ready to speak.
For beginning speakers, I think you should not try to make your purpose too complicated. Keep it simple. For example, the person above was trying to tell us about the process of recycling.
The person could have talked about the process of recycling an alumninum can. The person could have led us along the path of a can being returned to a recycling center, and then took us on the path of what happens after that. The person could have used the step approach. First this, then this, next this, finally this. Finished! Instead, they stood pontificating their wisdom, hoping to God that we the audience will see how brilliant and esoteric the person is, see how well read the person is, notice how amazing the person is.
Sadly, all we saw was how dull the person is.
A clear purpose will keep the dull grey from forming in your audiences eyes. For the recycling idea, the purpose could have been: to describe the process of recycling of an aluminum can.
There you have it. It’s clear. It’s concise. It’s simple. It’s manageable. Ahhh…but you might ask yourself…. “It’s too simple, won’t people be bored?”
That’s where the second tip comes in. Whenever you are writing a speech, it’s vital to ask yourself:
What will the audience leave with? What will they take with them after my talk?
In the case of the aluminum can, the audience will have a clear understanding of the process of recycling….at least, aluminum cans. Will this solve the world’s problems, make people better on earth? I don’t know. Probably not too much. But it will be interesting because probably most people don’t know it. (Of course, if you’re talking to engineers or recycling experts, this might be common knowledge, but…a general audience, say at a Toastmasters meeting, might be interested to learn this tiny bit of information).
So remember, what will the audience take with them after hearing your speech?
Finally, quit the complexity. You may have read a 100 books on the subject you are talking about. You may know a tonne of information about recycling, but so what? So what, unless you can convey to me and the rest of the audience, who know nothing, what you learned?
To convey to us what you learned, you have to accept your limitations. A book with 100 pages of information cannot be crammed into a seven minute speech, a ten minutes speech, a twenty minute speech. (Not usually, anyhow….and especially with not any depth). What can be done is this. You can take a tiny part of that book and a) fully understand it yourself, and b) decomplexify it. Make it so the average person understands. Teach it to us. We won’t know all that you know at the end of the speech, but that’s okay. If you make that tiny little piece clear and understandable, then we will want to know more. …and you will have a job. You will have the job of making more speeches so that we understand more.
When things are so complex that you the speaker can’t convey with clarity, then there is a problem. Usually a person who complexifies their topic does so because they think that that makes them smart. But true genius is the ability to turn complex into something easy for us normal folk can understand.
You’ll find that if you really work on your purpose, that if you focus on what the audience will take away from the speech, and that if you try to talk about a sliver of information in a way that is completely decomplexified, that the reaction to your speeches will improve. They’ll improve because they will become clearer, easier for the audience to understand.
So you should remember these three things to make your speeches more clear, more interesting, and more memorable.
If you’d like more specific information on how to go about decomplexifying, repurposing, or determining the gift that you’ll be giving, write me a request in the comment hole.
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