An experienced artist knows how much paint to put on the canvas to achieve the desired effect. A skilled musician senses how much air to blow into the instrument or how much pressure to put on the strings of the guitar. A gourmet chef understands how to season the entrée without overdoing it. A winning athlete moves fast or slows down based on the action on the field.
If you are a speaker and a leader who cares about truly reaching your audience, successfully choosing what to include – and what to leave out – can be one of the most challenging parts of being a powerful, effective communicator.
Why is deciding what to keep and what to toss out so hard? Sometimes, I find myself getting attached to some of the content emotionally. A story has really moved me and I want to include it. A set of facts seems really relevant or a wonderful analogy makes a complex concept really simple. Maybe you have had this personal tug-of-war with your content options, too?
Here are some techniques to try when you’re face to face with the issue of too much content for the time you’ve been given to speak: (Hint: Gather up a few colored highlighters to make this process work more easily.)
- First, highlight in yellow what stories, facts and figures you believe absolutely cannot be eliminated from your message.
- Say aloud any of the ideas or stories you did not mark in yellow. How do they sound? Are you charged up saying them or do you feel yourself emotionally “flat” delivering the lines. Mark in green the ones you plan to keep.
- Check out your opening, by saying it aloud. Are you going on and on – or do you capture attention quickly? Take the green marker and highlight the words in your opening that seem to be working the best. Could you trim anything out of your closing statement?
Becoming your own speaking editor does get a bit easier with practice and determination.