That can be quite difficult to do, given today’s short attention spans, and the usual times we do our talking. Take first thing in the morning, for example. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared into everyone’s morning “fog” and tried to get a message across (sometimes I was just better off declaring “time for coffee” and trying again after the caffeine kicked in).
How do we put words together that can “cut through the fog” – that can not just impart information, but bring folks to positive and productive action?
The answer is to look beyond the words themselves, and remember 4 important things as you prepare to present them to your audience:
- Inflection – If words are delivered in a monotone, without inflection, or even better, passion, it really doesn’t matter what you are saying. They will fall flat. Work on a rhythmic cadence, with volume changes. Pause for emphasis. Smile. Make eye contact. Practice with friends who will give you honest feedback, and in front of a mirror.
- Simplicity – If the words that are delivered are “over the heads” of your audience, it will sound nice but everyone will walk away with little comprehension. Don’t ask your audience to run to the dictionary every other sentence. This is especially true with your core messages. Say more with less.
- Structure – I think of delivering messages in the same way I think of telling stories – there has to be a beginning, a middle, and and end. It all has to be connected. It may seem all too obvious that things you say have to be in a logical order, but just think of all the ineffective speeches you’ve heard from leaders, and I bet the word “meandering” comes to mind. You never, ever want to be associated with that word – it’s deadly.
- Repetition – For a message to really sink in, you have to repeat it multiple times. For a message to really sink in, you have to repeat it multiple times. I’m such a believer in this one that I wrote a whole post about it, and created what I call “Terry’s Rule”: The need to say something at least 15 times. I also always remember something I heard once about effective speech-making: “Tell them what your going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them”.
This famous quote by Adlai Stevenson in November of 1960, when he was introducing then-candidate John F. Kennedy, sums this up very well:
This should be the litmus test after every presentation or speech – “Will they march“?
Practice and perfect these 4 elements of Inflection, Simplicity, Structure, and Repetition, and you’ll be well on your way towards passing that test, with flying colors.