1. Be conversational. A good speech, especially for today’s audiences, needs to sound conversational. However, there is a difference between a conversation and a speech that sounds conversational. An actual conversation involves back and forth. In a conversational speech, you imagine a crisp, concise conversation with your audience, avoiding unusually long pauses, run-on thoughts, and digressions of real discussions. Instead of words like “whatchamacallit” and “What was I saying?” you select the most appropriate, specific language, especially for your opening.
2. Script your opening phrases. Many content experts are not as pithy as we would like because they have become too confident about their material. They have their PowerPoint together, they have years of expertise, or they wrote a book on the subject. However, often they have not sat down and scripted the opening in short, specific phrases that intrigue us and invite us into the speech. However, once you get off to a good start, it is amazing how much this pithiness will carry through the rest of the presentation. Quality spreads.
3. Analyze. Listen to a recording of yourself, and even consider having a transcription of your presentation. Look for ways to be clearer, sharper, and more eloquent. What about sentence length? Do you run on and on, that may be considered natural in casual speech? Can you use shorter, more memorable sentences?
4. Edit. A commonly misused synonym for “delete,” “edit” actually means, “to correct, revise, or adapt.” Correct by filling in any unintentional blanks. (For example, skipping a step or instruction.) Revise by deleting repetitions, digressions, fuzzy phrases, and meaningless clichés. (For example, “today” is the most overused, impact-diluting word in business communication.) Adapt by framing the material for your specific audience. It is important you address your subject from the audience’s point of view or interest.
5. Use specifics. Silicon Valley business consultant David Palmer, PhD introduced me to the idea that “specificity builds credibility.” Speakers can immediately improve their speeches and articles by using words that are more precise. For example, you say, “I went to a networking event and walked out with bunches of cards of good prospects.” A “bunch” is for grapes. How big and useful was the pile of cards in your hands? However, if you say, “I left with two dozen cards, at least fifteen of them good prospects,” I have a specific idea.
If your goal is to create clear, concise, creative keynotes, sales conversations, or sales presentations, use these five techniques to be powerfully pithy.
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Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with those who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.