Best Tips 3: How to keep a business speech simple

Regular readers of this blog may recall our previously using Ed Miliband to demonstrate how things can be done better.  Particularly why it’s worth using notes to ensure you don’t forget something crucial.  So it is with some pleasure that we can now hold him up as a paragon of great communication, particularly in his adherence to a single word we hold so dear: Simplicity.

Ed’s podcast ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ is a wonderfully refreshing exercise in the translation of complicated economic and political issues into something accessible and straightforward.  One recent episode, on ‘economics’ didn’t just give a really clear insight into the issues, it also revealed the ways that language has been used to deliberately obfuscate.

By inviting guests to discuss ‘complex’ subjects in simple terms, Ed and his co-host Geoff Lloyd create instant impact.  It’s easy to engage with them, and almost impossible to get confused or distracted by the detail.

OK, it’s a podcast.  And it revels in it’s homely atmosphere.  But we all know that there are many people in the world of business (and politics) who take the opposite approach.  Sometimes it’s deliberate.  Typically it’s because they know much too much about their chosen subject and can’t help it spilling it all out in an impenetrable torrent of lists and details.

What not to do

To keep your business speech simple please DON’T:

  1. Start by explaining that there are “37 things I’d like to tell you today
  2. Lead by focusing on the key features of your product or service
  3. Use words or acronyms that only a colleague or fellow-expert will understand
  4. Quote long passages from other sources
  5. ‘Illustrate’ your speech with bullet points and fancy diagrams that need long explanations
  6. Fill time because you feel it’s necessary

Four ways to keep your business speech simple

  1. Start by thinking about your audience.  Keep them in mind from the very start.  And ask yourself every step along the way whether they will ‘get it’.
  2. Focus on the key benefit you are able to provide:
    • The printing press made literature available to the masses.  That’s simpler than starting by explaining how the screw press allowed direct pressure to be applied on flat-plane.
    • Commercial aircraft enabled tourists to visit new places.  That’s a benefit explaining the concept more clearly than the Air Commerce Act of 1926.
    • The mobile phone allowed us to be more flexible and speak on the go.  The way radio frequency establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator via a PSTN is fascinating to some, but not benefit-driven.
  3. Work out a single message you want each member of the audience to remember the following day.  Build your speech around it.
  4. Ask a friend who knows nothing about your business to listen to the speech.  Ask them to interrupt every time they lose focus or don’t understand.  Then rewrite it.

The fifth way

Just call a business built around the concept of making a business speech simple!  Or any speech for that matter.  Or presentation or written communication.  We can take it off your hands or train you and your team to do it in-house.  Just let us know.  We’ll do our best to give you another reason to be cheerful!

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