Five Ways to Shorten a Speech

Most speeches can be dramatically improved by cutting down on their length.

If you doubt me, ask yourself when was the last time you wished a speaker had gone on longer.

Pity your poor audience. They’re drowning in facts and data, images and options. They have too much to do in too little time. Even while attending a morning presentation, they’re already behind schedule. As you speak, a clock ticks in the back of their minds, reminding them they’re late for their next engagement.

When you want to win people’s attention and cooperation, be brief.

1. Get to the Point.

Tell your audience straightaway what you’re talking about, what you’re going to cover and in what order

2. Sum Up Your Speech.

If you can’t state your main point in one sentence, you’re probably trying to accomplish too much.

3. Eliminate Opening Pleasantries.

Don’t waste time saying, “I’m happy to be here with you today to talk about a very important subject.” Cut to the chase. Don’t tell people what you have to say is important. Show them how important it is by getting right to it.

4. Break Your Speech into Three Elements.

What? What is your main idea or proposal? What product, service, process, or procedure are you talking about? Name it. Describe it. Explain it.

Why? Why does what you’re talking about matter to your audience? Why should they care? (Hint: show them how it will benefit them.)

How? How does it work? How can your audience use it? How is it better (more effective, less expensive, etc.) than the alternatives? How can the audience use the information you’re giving them?

5. Stop Talking When You’re Finished.

Stop talking and sit down when you’ve finished. Going on and on when you’ve already made your point will only weaken your impact. Write out your last sentence or two and memorize it. It sounds ridiculous to say, but end when you’re done.
Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” It’s also the bones and sinew of a strong, persuasive speech. Next time you give a speech, try it. Be brief and you’ll punch up the persuasive power of your speech.

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The Witt Communications Newsletter contains advice for improving your ability to present yourself and your ideas in a way that wins people’s cooperation. It comes out once a month. Subscribe here.

Also see How to Plan a Speech.

For information about how Chris Witt can help you become a more powerful speaker, contact us.

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