The Big Idea of a Speech

We are already drowning in information. For the most part, we need not more information, but a way of understanding the information we already have access to.

That’s why leaders and successful presenters promote ideas. An idea, if it’s any good, organizes, ties together, and explains the significance and the implications of information.

So how do you judge an idea’s value? Here are three questions to help you decide whether your idea or someone else’s idea is any good.

1. Is It Clear?

Clarity isn’t everything. A clear idea may offend people or galvanize their opposition. But a confusing idea will succeed only in shutting them down. It’s better to risk having an idea rejected than to have it met with a collective “huh?”.
A) Summarize your idea in one, short sentence, using simple, everyday words.
B) Strip away all jargon, highfaluting words, and business clichés (e.g., synergistic, out-of-the-box, at the end of the day, best-of-breed, customer-centric, ROI, etc.).
C) Set the idea forth as simply and briefly as possible, and see if it can stand on its own merits.

2. Is It Supported By The Evidence?

An idea unsupported by evidence may or may not be true. But it does lack credibility. A good idea is only as credible as the evidence cited to explain and justify it: statistics, testimony, stories, anecdotes, examples, visual aids and facts. The amount and the type of evidence changes depending on the nature of idea and on makeup of the audience. Controversial ideas and technical audiences, for example, require much more, hard evidence.

3. Is It Interesting?

An idea can be clear, coherent, and backed up with tons of evidence, but if it bores people, it’s no use to anyone. It won’t get listened to and it won’t get acted on. And it’s probably not such a great idea. There’s something inherently interesting about a good idea. It stirs people’s curiosity and imaginations. It makes people ask questions and explore new options. It gets people talking and taking action. It doesn’t put people to sleep.

4. Talking Too Long

People are stressed out, overworked, and impatient. Be brief. Even if you’re delivering day-long program, treat it as a series of briefer presentations. Never exceed the time you’ve been given to speak. Finish before your time is up and your audience will love you.

5. Using PowerPoint Poorly or When It’s Not Called For

Even when used well, PowerPoint can’t compete with the visual sophistication audiences have come to expect from TV and the movies. So limit the number of slides you use. Keep yourself up front and personal. Make your presentation as interactive as possible. See When Not to Use PowerPoint.

6. Presenting Too Much Information

People are already overwhelmed with information. Give them only as much information as they absolutely need to know. Then help them understand what it means. People generally don’t need more facts and data. They need to be able to act in a way that will help them get what they want.

7. Avoiding Questions

If your audience doesn’t ask questions, it may not be because you’ve explained everything so clearly. It may be because they’re disengaged. Think of Q&A as a major element of your presentation. Don’t speak for longer than 15 minutes without engaging people’s questions. And for every 12 to 15 minutes that you talk, allow for 4 to 5 minutes of Q&A. See How to Handle Questions.

If you’re a leader, whether or not you have the title, your success will depend in large measure on the quality of your ideas, on the clarity and helpfulness.

# # #

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.

Leave a Reply