No, not like this (my lovely wife and daughters would not be amused):
And no, not like this either (although they did have some great songs that bring back memories every time I hear them):
What I mean is the “Kiss Principle”: Keep it short and simple.
Anyone can ramble on (and on and on) in a speech. But the speaker who can cut to the heart of the matter quickly and precisely, and leave the audience enthralled – that speaker has understood the essence of good public speaking. Want a good example? Take this little history test.
When you think of the Gettysburg Address, which of the following names comes to mind: Abraham Lincoln or Edward Everett? Chances are you said Lincoln and then wondered, “Who is Edward Everett?”
Everett was a distinguished Congressman, Senator and President of Harvard University. He was a big supporter of Lincoln, and both men shared the podium at the dedication to the soliders’ cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Everett gave what was, by most accounts, a fine speech . . . that lasted over two hours! Lincoln followed him and gave “the” Gettysburg Address – a speech of less than 300 words that lasted only a couple of minutes.
Shortly thereafter, Everett wrote Lincoln a letter in which he praised the President’s “eloquent simplicity and appropriateness”. It speaks well of Everett’s character that he also wrote, “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
Of course, most speeches and presentations cannot be given in a couple of minutes. And there is nothing wrong with a long speech that is well structured and well delivered. Still, much can be done to separate the verbal wheat from the chaff.
I will provide specific suggestions in future posts. For now, just remember the importance of simplicity in public speaking. The next time you are preparing a presentation, rigorously ask yourself: do I really need this much information, this many slides, this number of words, this much time?
By pruning your words carefully, you will find that they yield much sweeter fruit. As Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Edward Everett (1794 – 1865)