Speech Smarts

Do you have plenty of good?

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Good and plenty is a horrible candy.  My mouth puckers in disgust just thinking about the licorice flavored white and pink pellets.  Thanks to the internet, I have one more reason to detest this confection.  It is made from bugs.  Now, I understand you may really like licorice so feel free to munch away but crunching on bugs is a bit much.  Now if you read the ingredients on the box, it will say “Artificial Color (K-Carmine and Red 40)” which sounds like an ingredient brought to us by some ingenious food chemist.  “[The] red dye called K-Carmine … is produced from the crushed bodies of the female cochineal insect.” Wikepedia.  There are plenty of ways to say something, some way just sound better than others. As a speaker do you speak directly, indirectly, or recklessly?

Presentations that turn into train wrecks are missing a few ingredients. Usually preparation is left out.    Reckless speakers assume that they can wing it and no one will notice the bugs.  Bugs like awkward transitions, lack of structure and ending which just fizzle out, leave a bad taste in the listener’s mouth.   You can plan out a powerful presentation very quickly, if you begin with the conclusion, choose a structure and connect your points purposefully.   There are plenty of conclusions to draw upon, plenty of structures to select from and plenty of ways to transition from point to point.  A good basic transition is to say “That reminds me of…” A good structure is three points sandwiched between an interesting introduction and a clear conclusion.  A carefully crafted conclusion is the primary ingredient to keep everything on track.      

There is a fine line between speaking indirectly and using misdirection.  As a salesman, I found that distracting my client’s attention away from the bugs in my offer did not make the dragonflies disappear. As I matured, I discovered that pointing out the fly in the ointment often saved, not spoiled, the sale.   Many years ago, I sold extremely expensive carpeting. Yep, my contribution to mankind was to protect people from hardwood floors and cold feet.  By expensive, I mean it cost 4 times more than the industry average.   Hmm… So, a 50% discount meant we were only twice as expensive as everyone else and you thought your work was challenging.  My solution was to feature the price and say that our competition was Mercedes, Rolex, and private yachts not other carpeting companies.  Indirectly, I was saying that this was fashion, to add flair to your home, and not a fuzzy home for fleas.   I am sure I crossed the line more than I care to admit, directly.

Being blunt is a direct way to make your point.  The advantage is that it avoids misunderstanding; however, it shows a lack of understanding.  We all need and want things.  What we get is often a function of how we ask.  Direct demands work when you are in command.  Your audience may have to listen to you if you are the boss, but they may not follow your direction willingly.  Speakers who act like a boss are hard to swallow.  One solution is to use plenty of stories which help your listener’s come to their own understanding. By sharing your point directly after a story, you make your conclusions clear.

Every presentation has plenty of bugs. Reckless presenters pretend they don’t exist and when they start to speak they look like they are swatting flies.  Presenters that say things indirectly run the risk of intentionally confusing the buzz with the bite.   Direct speakers tell it like it is, with all the subtlety of a bee sting.   There are plenty of ways to say something; some are sweet, some sting, and others just stink.  If there are plenty of bugs in your ingredients, it not good enough to sugar coat it.       

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About the Author:

David Nemitz has designed and delivered over 10,000 sales presentations, professional development programs and executive coaching sessions for corporations and governmental organizations such as the US State Department, The French Consulate, and American Express. When he is not helping others define and refine their strengths, you can find him watching the sun set over The Magic City or strolling through The City of Light where he lives with his wife Ninette.