A relevant business speech. It’s the Golden Ticket. No secrets there. I’m not sure we’ve ever finished a conversation with a potential client without mentioning ‘relevance’ at least once.
And if it means ‘writing for your audience’ then it’s a crucial and admirable goal. But how do you actually become relevant? Particularly when your subject matter is dry, your audience is tired, or the news you are communicating isn’t good.
That’s often the moment when we are asked to step in to help write the speech. And our advice is likely to include:
- Empathy. You understand that they are feeling tired and impatient. So say it. Explain that you can see imagine what they must be thinking. Demonstrate your desire to provide all the reassurance / help / levity required at a time like this. Assure them that by the time you finish they will be able to take away something genuinely useful. Begin that way and you should, at the very least, have gained their attention for the right reasons.
- Benefits not features. I am often asked for the single piece of advice I would give to someone preparing a business speech. This is it: To make your subject relevant by ‘translating’ it for your audience. From what you know into why they might be interested. So, if you are about to review the financial year, don’t start by listing numbers. Explain whether the big picture is positive and what it means to them. If you are introducing a new product, explain why it will be useful (and to whom) before running through its technical spec. ‘Benefits’ don’t necessarily have to be positive, but they will always be directly relevant to the user (or listener). Features may make the benefits possible, but without some context they tend to be dull and, by definition, irrelevant.
- Brevity. Unless you are a stand-up comic, JK Rowling at a book reading, or a politician giving a filibuster, it is unlikely that your audience are willing you to keep talking. ‘Less is more’ may not be an original concept, but the audience at a business speech will generally be happier sitting still for 15 minutes than for 50.
- Simplicity. No audience ever complained that the business speech they’d just listened to was too easy to understand. That it was too well structured. That the key points were prioritised. That the tone and message was clear. That’s relevance!
In practice, relevance means turning this:
“Good morning. When I write a speech I start by checking off my list of fifteen tips.
The first is to gather all my points together and ensure I cover everything I need to say. I have thought about this subject long and hard and I don’t want to miss anything important out.
The second is to get my thoughts down on paper. It’s easier to edit a speech than to write one, so I give myself something to work with.
The third is not to waste a minute. My slot is thirty minutes long, so I don’t want to finish a second too early.”
“Good morning everyone.
Hands up if you have ever given a speech?
And hands up if you felt your audience could have been more engaged?
Well thank you!
And I’m hoping that in a few minutes, you will feel much more confident about getting it right next time.
Because it’s incredible how many speakers – particularly in the world of business – forget that the most important way to communicate with impact …
… is not the amount they know about a subject …
… but translating it into what their audience needs to hear.
If they can see a personal benefit then they’ll be energised. And you will instantly sense the surge in confidence that comes with saying something that people really want to hear.”
Can we help?
Please do get in touch if you have a draft that doesn’t seem as relevant as it ought, or if you’d like to discuss how we can help take it off your hands.