Toastmasters: The advantage of cutting content

Way is one of the most powerful tips you can learn as a speaker? Would you believe that how to say less can be as valuable of a skill as knowing what to say?

Have any of these happened to you?

1. Slow down your speaking. Have you ever been given this advice? You might think that the way to make this work is to add time to your presentation.

Better? Cut unnecessary content.

2. The speaker before you went over time. Should you just plow through your complete presentation? Even while the audience is checking in with their watches, and out on you?

Cut content.

3. We’re you asked to do your 40-minute keynote in 20 minutes? Should you plan to speed up your presentation?

You guessed it…cut content.

Is there a trick? No, just a process:

First, go back to the beginning. Ask yourself, “What is the point you expect your audience to walk away with?” Craig Valentine calls this your foundational phrase. If you can’t get it to 10 words or less, your audience won’t get it either.

Next, look at the content that doesn’t support this phrase. We all love anecdotes and quotes that sound good. Stephen Covey says, “Be Proactive”. If you only include them because they sound good without really supporting your point, you need to let them go. Cut them. Now.

Do you have any activities? Can you bring in something that takes less time? Maybe you can take that 5-minute group activity and replace it with a 2-minute one. I did that recently at a training…oh wait…you don’t need to hear that.

Take a close look at the stories you use. Do your stories have characters that aren’t important to the point? Are there any superfluous words or phrases? Let them go.

Are you adding commentary? Sometimes this may be valuable, but not always. Be sure adding your opinion supports the audiences needs. If you are doing it for yourself, cut it.

Having to figure out how to speak less can be annoying, but if you avoid cramming information in you can avoid cramming your audience out. It’s tough to do the first few (hundred) times, but once you master the skill of cutting out unnecessary content, you’ll be more effective when you do speak, and you’re audience will be more likely to want to hear you again.

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