Public Speaking: It’s All About the Audience

January 28 2019
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Jayne O'Connor
Public Speaking: It’s All About the Audience

Social media has certainly had a dramatic effect on the way we communicate with each other. Twitter’s emphasis on brevity, together with the trend toward shorter attention spans, puts a premium on every word and requires us to say more with fewer words. As a professional communicator, I frequently counsel clients to get to the point quickly to have the most impact.

The trend toward fast-paced and concise communications often seems to be overlooked by people who are asked to give remarks at events or otherwise speak to an audience. As someone who attends a number of these events each year, I find myself wanting to remind the presenters of the basic tenets of public speaking that we call the ABC’s: audience, brevity, and clarity.

It’s all about the audience. Whether it’s a job interview or speech at a major event, it’s critical to remember that it’s not about what you know, it’s about what they need to hear.

When rehearsing your remarks (and everyone should) put yourself in the audience’s place and consider whether your points are clear and succinct. Simplicity leads to clarity. Use plain words and short sentences so listeners can follow your points. The clearer you are, the more persuasive you’ll be.

To get your message across, you need to use language that your audience understands and engages with.

Once you’ve found the right words, you also need to give your message a clear structure. Think of a presentation like telling a story — one with an engaging beginning, a supportive middle, and a clear ending.

Next, edit your remarks to be as brief as possible. If Abe Lincoln could keep the Gettysburg Address under two minutes, you can introduce an award winner in less than 20.

Finally, we always remind our clients of FDR’s philosophy of public speaking: “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

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