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When it Comes to Public Speaking, Less is More

We’ve all heard it before: “Less is more.” It’s what the TV makeover professional tells the woman who’s stuck on busy, patterned clothes and too much jewelry. It’s what makes fine-dining portions feel so special. And in terms of presentations, the same concepts are true: Less has greater impact, and small portions make the audience feel special.

But here’s the kicker: Less is more work, too. As Mark Twain said, “If I had more time, I would have written less.”

In public speaking, the “less is more” concept means that what you do present is carefully selected for the listener. Presenting less information to your audience requires honing your material, making discrete choices, and selecting only what is relevant and meaningful. And it means making these decisions ahead of time, not when you’re at the podium.

So while it does take more time to refine and distill your message than it does to tell the audience everything you know about your subject, your hard work is worth it. By developing a more spare and elegant speech, you’re creating a message with real substance. It sounds counter intuitive, but it’s true. Your ideas will hold their own weight, and the core elements will shine through without being hidden amidst jargon or superfluous information.

Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to narrow things down. You may struggle with deciding what to keep and what to cut. This is why knowing your audience is so crucial. Put yourself in your listeners’ shoes. What information is most important to them? What one main message do you want to get across? If you had one minute and one minute only to present your information, what key point would you stress? That’s the information to focus on.

The good news is that after you’ve taken the time to edit, not only will you have created a more elegant presentation, but you will have worked with the information for so long that you will be more confident in the message you deliver.

Of course, I could go on about this topic, but I’m taking my own advice with this one. Less is more…enough said!

August 26th, 2010 | Permalink | Trackback | Bookmark and Share

2 Responses to When it Comes to Public Speaking, Less is More

  1. Kathy Reiffenstein

    Angela, this is such a great point. I’m quite sure the reason we don’t see more short, crisp elegant presentations is because they are, indeed, more work!

    I always tell my clients…”keep editing!”


  2. TJ Walker

    So much of being a good speaker has nothing to do with speaking skills. Instead, it’s about being a better editor; specifically editing down a speech to just a handful of the most important ideas.

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