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Say less!

Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his son this advice about public speaking. 

“Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated” 

It is much easier to give a long talk, as being brief means spending more time preparing and editing out the bits of your talk that are non essential.

According to Joe McCormack, author of Brief: How to make a bigger impact by saying lessthere are three tendencies that stop people from being brief when they are speaking in public;

  1. The tendency of over explaining
  2. The tendency of under preparing
  3. The tendency to completely miss the point.

Don’t add to the overwhelm

In today’s world we are bombarded with emails, interruptions, and the frequent checking of smartphones and other distractions. 

The need to be brief, to cut to the chase, and to avoid any extraneous information is essential if you want to be an effective communicator.

Yet, many of us struggle to keep our message brief, as it requires more effort to plan and refine the content. 

Being brief is a skill worth mastering when you are dealing with people who are overwhelmed with information – and that is most of us!

“If I say 150 words a minute, and you can hear 750 words a minute, the less I say, the more you hear.  

The more you say, the less they’re going to hear,”

Joe McCormack

Filter out the non-essential

Start by removing any non-essential information from your message. Aim to get better at filtering the ‘must have’ from the ‘nice to have’. It is often a challenge to ‘slash and burn’ your own material, as we can get attached to it. This is where a skilled editor or copywriter can be a great asset. 

Timing is fundamental to your credibility as a speaker

Don’t say more simply because you have the time. If you can deliver a message with impact, in less time than you have been allocated, there’s no need to fill up the extra time for the sake of it. 

Noone is going to complain about a bit of extra time for networking, grabbing a stretch, or having a refreshment break. 

However, what is considered bad mannered, is speaking way over time. Planning your time and knowing where you can cut out material on the fly, is a skill that sets an exceptional speaker apart from the rest. 

You didn’t have time to prepare?  

Your audience should not have to bear the brunt of lack of preparation. Being underprepared can lead to fluff and waffle, as you are gathering your thoughts as you go. 

As you think about what comes next or what you had planned to say, you may drop in an excessive number of  ‘ums, ahs, so, you know’ as you buy more time. This lack of preparation is obvious to all in the room and is hard to disguise. It can give the impression of ‘your time is not as valuable as mine’.  

On the other hand, a well prepared speaker will look and sound natural, and their material will flow and appear effortless. 

When you are at ease and fully across your material, you can focus on the audience, read their non verbal cues, change up your delivery or content as needed, and the experience will be more relaxing and enjoyable.

It takes more time to be brief, but it is worth it. A speaker who is considerable about time, and can make their point concisely with content that is memorable and compelling, is the speaker who will be appreciated and asked back. 

What’s the point?

When you plan and practice your talk, the first thing you must determine is the key message. If you cannot clearly state the point of your talk in ten words or less, it’s probably too complex or lacking in structure. 

Having a tagline, a takeaway and a WIIFM is a way to articulate your message in a concise way. 

When you are clear on your point, you can add supporting evidence, story, and delivery techniques to round it out. 

When you have a simple framework to your talk it keeps you on track. 

If your preference is to write out a script for your talk, then I suggest you write it as you will speak it. We speak very differently than how we write, and when we speak a piece that is meant to be written, it sounds like it’s being read aloud. 

Write your speech lines like poetry, aim to have shorter sentences with room for pauses. 

When you are standing in front of the group speaking and you find yourself unintentionally wandering, pull yourself back so that you stick to the point. 

Every time you speak in front of an audience you have the opportunity to stand out, to be unique and to make a difference. Be the best speaker you can be. 

In my next blog post I am going to share my process for putting together a speech from scratch.


About the author

Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers.

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat.

Here’s how I may help you 

My services include: 

Virtual – Live Online Training – Public Speaking and Presentation Skills, Business Storytelling and executive Speaker Coaching is available online.

Business Storytelling Coaching – together we can get started to create your suite of stories. A minimum of three sessions is recommended 1:1 in person or virtually via Zoom.

Executive Speaker Coaching – if you have an upcoming guest speaking opportunity, funding pitch, conference talk or you want to be an outstanding speaker, we can work together on your technique. You will see the results after one session.

Get Paid to Speak Register your interest for the next date.

Storytelling for Leaders Interactive Workshops – I can come to you, or we can host a workshop offsite for your team. From half-day to two-days immersive, this customised workshop is an ideal way to kick start your business storytelling strategy and get the whole team telling stories. 

Keynote/Guest Speaking at your next conference live of virtual event – I have several topics to choose from ranging from a 30-minute talk up to a 90-minute interactive session.

Lisa Evans, MBA is the CEO of Speaking Savvy. She is one of less than 150 Certified Speaking Professionals in Australia. She is a Certified Public Speaking and Storytelling Coach, Certified Virtual Presenter, Accredited Business Coach (ICF), Author, TEDx Speaker Coach, NLP Coach, Graphic Recorder, Host and Curator of Stories From The Heart, and Improvisation Actor and Marketing Director at Perth Playback Theatre.