Simplification and Clarity
By definition, you are invited to give a speech because the group believes you have knowledge to share, which many in the audience will not already have. It is vital that you get some kind of assessment about the level of awareness the majority have about your topic or you may talk over their heads. If most are not experts on the fundamentals of your subject, be sure you avoid jargon and references to technical issues that are not explained.
Give the big picture of what you will be talking about in your opening, then make sure the transitions between your subtopics are logical and smooth. You can summarize what you have just said at the end of each section and then link it to the next point. “Now that we understand what the expectations for NAFTA were, let's examine how it measured up since implementation.” This is also a way to regularly tell the audience to pay attention, to counter its never-ending downward cycle into boredom.
Overworked cliches should be avoided, like “cool as a cucumber” or “live and learn.” However, you can use one to good effect in a funny context, like a box-maker which “thinks outside the box” to come up with a different product line, or the “light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming freight train of change.” Or you can reverse the traditional advice: “the customer is
For all but the most technical presentations, use words most people will know, rather than brainier ones — results, instead of output; clarify, instead of elucidate; speed, instead of expedite. If you show off by using obscure words, those who do not know them will be puzzled and to the rest you will sound pretentious.
Do not use foreign-language words or phrases without translation, even those you feel everyone should know (
Some other tips include:
Eliminate phrases your tongue will trip over.
Use shorter sentences. Most of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address consists of sentences of five words or less.
Simplify phrases. For example, instead of “in a majority of cases” you could just say “usually,” or you could substitute “during” for “in the course of.”
Be as precise as possible because the audience will impose very different ideas — “sometime” might mean next week or next year, “near” could be interpreted as twenty miles or five miles away.
Be bold, rather than using vague words. Instead of “we will take this under consideration next week,” say “we will make a decision next week.”
Avoid euphemisms, like “collateral damage” instead of “civilian casualties” or “ill-advised move” instead of a “poor” one.
Make sure that any acronyms are understood by everyone — SEC for Securities and Exchange Commission, DWP for Department of Water and Power, etc.
Get to the point. Nothing bores an audience more than a windbag who talks and talks without moving the meaty content forward.