Seven Rules for More Powerful Speaking

To speak more powerfully — to give the type of speech or presentation that gains people’s attention and wins their support — follow these seven rules:

1. Don’t waste your listeners’ time.

People’s time is their most preciously guarded resource. Make good use of it. It’s never okay to go over your allotted time. (Doing so is rude to the meeting planner, to your audience, and to any other speaker who is on after you.) But it’s always okay to go under your allotted time. Say what you need to say and, having said it, sit down.

2. Give the audience one idea.

Build each speech about one — and only one — idea. Define your idea. Describe it. Show how it works. Tell a story about it — either about how you discovered or developed it or about how it has affected other people. Make people like your idea, not just agree with it.

3. Make your audience want something.

If you can’t make them want something from your speech — an insight or a practical tip or maybe just a good time — you’re wasting their time. Which is a violation of Rule #1. Show people how your idea will benefit them in some way.

4. Make every sentence do one of two things — educate or entertain.

Educate = tell people something they don’t already know or give them a new way of understanding what they do know. Entertain = keep them interested, since bored people stop listening and stop caring.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

Cut out the introductory sentences and sentiments. “I’m so happy to be with you today…” “What an honor it is for me to be addressing you…” “You’re such a great group of people…” (Churchill called opening pleasantries “opening banalities.”) Dive right into your best material.

6. Give your audience all the information they need — but no more — as soon as possible.

Explain the background. Define your terms. Keep your audience in suspense, not in ignorance. It you confuse them or make them feel out of it, they’ll tune you out.

7. Minimize your use of PowerPoint.

The only type of presentation that benefits from using PowerPoint is one that is primarily meant to communicate information. If you’re trying to influence how an audience thinks or feels or if you want to inspire them to take action, don’t use PowerPoint.

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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.

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

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