During a long flight, I was catching up on my reading, and came across an interesting article in Newsweek (March 29, 2010) by Jon Meacham.
The article was about Bill Clinton’s comments regarding President Obama’s oratory, and what he needed to do to be better understood.
The phrase that former President Clinton said that struck me was “relentless exploration.” He also said, “…if you explain something to me, even if I don’t entirely understand it, even if I don’t agree with you, you have nevertheless honored me.”
As an executive coach in presentation skills and Hall of Fame professional speaker, this sentiment really resonated with me.
If people don’t understand what a speaker says, how do they make good decisions?
What gets in the way of audience member understanding?
· Acronyms, jargon and buzz words
· Bombastic vocabulary
· Long sentences
· Mounds of data and statistics that go in circles and aren’t interpreted properly, or in the right context
· Eloquence without substance
Meacham’s (now adopted by me!) four rules to get your point across – and maybe even buy in for your ideas are:
- Create a vision – “tell us how what you are saying will lead us to a better place, and describe the place.”
- “Assume nothing;
- Repeat yourself until you are numb.”
Only after you do all of these techniques, he said, the message may begin to sink in.
Meacham also reinforces the “15- to 20-word test” when answering questions. If you can’t answer questions in 15 to 20 words, you aren’t going to get through to your audience members.
These presentation skills rules of thumb aren’t just relevant to presidents.
We can all apply them in any presentation that we deliver – to better connect with our audiences and achieve “buy in” and action for our messages.