Speakers – and speaker trainers – rightly focus on the “tricks of the trade”. Breathing, body language, voice. All these things matter, and are critical to speaking success.

They can all be grouped together as “how” skills, though – and just as important in any presentation is the “what”. What you say really is as crucial as how you say it. Like a pas de deux in ballet, both halves of the performance need to be perfect if the dance is going to work!

So in this blog, I’m going to focus on the ways in which you can ensure what you’re saying makes sense to an audience.. What do you want the audience to take home from your speech?

Boiling down your message to three key “take-homes” will help you ensure that your presentation has momentum and direction. All great speeches are honed – they revolve around one, two, or a maximum of three key ideas, and focus on communicating those concisely and memorably.

There are three techniques you can use to ensure that those core messages are received by your audience loud and clear. The good news is that they are inter-linked – if you have one of them, it’s going to be easy to include all three.

1.     Structure. The enemy of all speakers is the tendency to ramble. Make sure that every sentence – every word! – is contributing something to your speech. Structure will help you here: beginning, middle, end. Problem, explanation, solution. Pick a frame for your remarks – and stick to it.

2.     Story. Narratives are important because they are so powerful. Humans are story-tellers – we love a good yarn. Stories, like speeches, also have structures – and you can shape your speech like one. When you use a powerful story at a key point, it will help illustrate it and assist your audience in remembering it.

3.     Repetition. Choose a structure. Tell a story. Then repeat. Use the rule of threes – focus, focus, focus. And then choose a structure. Tell a story. And repeat. See? It works amazingly well!

Everything you do onstage – breathing well, moving right, smiling and holding eye contact – is designed to help you make an impact. What you’re saying is the impact you want to make. So make sure your intent is clear – and use structure, story and repetition to do it.

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