To be a compelling speaker you want to be clear and clever. The trick is to know when to do what.

Several new clients are working on important upcoming presentations.

I told them, “It’s like building a house. First you lay the foundation and build the structure. After the walls are up and the floors are in, then you add the tile color, cool fixtures and fun furniture.”

I continued, “That’s how you construct a speech. The foundation of your message needs clarity. Don’t make it hard on your audience to figure out what you’re talking about. AFTER the house bones are in place… then you add your décor.”

When to be clear

Your presentation purpose + the time you’ll take to share your message. Example: “In the next 15 minutes I’m going to share a snap shot of our 4th quarter earnings.”

Your ROI (return on investment) to your listeners. What will your audience gain from listening to you? This sentence usually comes just after your statement of purpose. Example: If your purpose is to talk about how to mentor new lawyers then the ROI will be, “You want to mentor your new lawyers because they will be your future bench and gold mine. If not, turnover is costly and time consuming.”

Your main points/categories/reasons/buckets. This is like your Table of Contents. Let your audience know up front the main chapters of your presentation. You’ll stay more focused and less tangential, and your listeners will remain more tuned in. Example: “The main points of my speech are our strategies, costs and value.”

Your call to action. What do you want your audience to do, think or feel as a result of listening to you? State this clearly! Example, “I challenge you to take steps to strengthen your value proposition.”

When to be clever

Your beginning (intro) after you get introduced by someone else. Here is your chance to be clever! Gain your audience’s attention by starting with a story, quote or question.

Your support material. Within each of your main points – add some texture. Include stories, examples, analogies, metaphors, and good visuals.

Your conclusion. After being clear about your Call to Action, end with a quote or another story or a continuation of your story used at the start of your speech.

Example: “Your house is a combination of the cement and wood beams AND your art and pillows. Together you create your unique home. Just like with a compelling presentation.”

Author: Karen Cortell Reisman is Founder of Speak For Yourself®, a communication consulting firm, and the author of 2 books on how to communicate. She lives in Dallas, Texas and has never built a house but tries to be both clear and clever when speaking!

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