ANOTHER GUEST POST! This one from fellow Public Speaking Coach, Bronwyn Ritchie.
This is a VERY valuable article when it comes to speech writing. Check it out, as well as Bronwyn's website: http://www.yourstorymatters.today/.
Death by TMI
It’s not just PowerPoint and its misuse that can cause death to an
audience’s interest. If you found yourself suffering during a
presentation it was probably boredom – from a boring presenter who
was not excited about his subject, from an overloaded, boring
slideshow, and most assuredly from an overloaded, information
packed presentation, given with no thought to your comfort, your
interests or your needs.
As presenters, why do we do this? Why do we feel compelled to force
too much information into our presentations?
One reason I am very familiar with is the need to showcase our
knowledge. This may be as basic as a novice presenter desperate to
gain credibility and kudos for their knowledge. So many of us go into
public speaking thinking we need to do this to be liked and respected
by the audience. Hence we construct a speech filled with as much
information as we can pack into it. Unfortunately, when this is the
main aim, we lose sight of the point of the speech and the needs of the
audience and consequently have no clear message. And oftentimes,
rather than impressing the audience, we end up annoying them. The
worst-case- scenario is giving the impression that we really don’t
understand the big picture or the relevance of the information. An
annoyed audience and a lack of understanding of the topic are not
good indicators for a successful presentation or for being rehired.
Another reason for stuffing a presentation with information may be
lack of preparation. Perhaps the speaker has been called upon at the
last minute. Perhaps they have had their time limit extended
unexpectedly. Perhaps they have little experience in presenting. The
result is an audience that simply ends up confused.
The third reason for TMI (Too much information) can be enthusiasm -
enthusiasm for the subject, enthusiasm for the opportunity to share
the information, enthusiasm for the chance to present. There is
nothing wrong with enthusiasm. It can be a powerful engagement
tool, but when it leads to an enthusiastic deluge of information, the
result is not powerful engagement. The audience gets bored. Their
brains signal overload and irritation sets n. The brain can really only
absorb 3 points at any one time. The maximum is 7 (hence the early
telephone numbers having 7 digits). Once it has to deal with much
more than that, it needs to go into a different, more difficult
processing mode. That’s where the irritation sets in –boredom and a
desire to escape or tune out – death by TMI!
Finally there is the belief that decisions are made on rational
consideration of the facts. So we give our audiences masses of facts
that prove the point we are making – statistics, reports, graphs and
diagrams, proof in all its forms. And they tune out. Given the
indication that they are going to be subjected to too much
information, they start being selective about what they remember.
And that choice won’t always necessarily be the one we wanted them
The answer lies in a series of decisions we need to make when we start
putting together our presentations and speeches.
The first thing to decide is – what do you want your audience to do,
think or feel at the end of your speech? What is the ultimate outcome
you want from it? State that in one sentence so that you are laser
focussed on it.
You will need to know your audience in order to do this. Always,
always, always take them into account. What do they need from you?
What do they want from you? What would they think was valuable
about a speaker and his material? What will excite them?
So choose your outcome based on those aspects of your audience.
Then choose the points you will use to create that outcome. Choose
them based on what your audience will remember. Choose them
based on what will engage this audience. And choose them based on
the length of the speech. There should be three main points. If it is a
longer presentation, then have three subdivisions of those main
points. Expect to have about one main point per 10 minutes of
Then choose material to support those points that can be remembered
and repeated. People buy on emotion and rationalise their decisions
with logic, even if they are buying ideas. So use emotional supports as
well as logical ones. Use phrases that can be repeated – by you
throughout the speech and by your audience members later as
prompts to memory. And aim to have one thing – just one thing –
that is absolutely memorable and stands out from the whole
presentation. It may be an object. It may be a story. It may be an
image. But make it so graphic that it sticks in the mind of your
audience long after you are finished. Make it something they will chat
about afterwards. And make it something that will instantly remind
them of the outcome that you wanted.
Once you have your material ready and have rehearsed, prepare for
changes in the length of time available to you. If it is suddenly
announced that you have extra time, have extra that you can add. If it
is suddenly announced that time has been cut, know what you can cut
from your material and still succeed with the presentation.
If you choose material that is suited to your audience you will
maintain their attention and engagement. If you limit it to a few
powerful points you will maintain their attention and engagement and
you will make it easy for them to remember your material. If you add
memory triggers to the mix, then your outcomes should be assured.
Those are the things that will showcase your knowledge (winnowing
out the important points), ensure you are prepared, communicate
your enthusiasm and guarantee that your audience things, acts or
believes what it was you wanted them to.
Kwesi Millington helps speakers to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.