Keep answers/speeches short, simple and focused

March 17, 2016

With the NAMA OneShow only weeks away, many people are thinking about how to prepare presentations, acceptance speeches or even what to say if they are asked a question by the media. I have looked at various business publications and blogs when in need of this information and there are some great examples out there, such as 7 Things to Do When You Have to Give a Short Speech and How to Create a Short Speech Fast. Below, I’m going to summarize some of my favorites and most used strategies. I hope you’ll find them useful in April as you speak, network or answer interview questions.

The Brief

Writing, or speaking, in an abbreviated amount of time is always more difficult than being unlimited. Don’t try to cram in stories, all your critical points and examples. Really trim down what you want to say to a few basic points that will have a strong impact on your audience. Focus on those that are most interesting, most surprising, most helpful or most profitable. Think of it as if you are writing a headline. “Vending Machines don’t make good life rafts.”  Pause. “They would sink, the electronics could not operate. They could not be restocked.”

Another way to think of this technique is like the thesis statement that you learned in English class to give a brief and specific frame of reference to your writing. The same applies to oral presentations.  Give the question/problem/topic and the main arguments you will present in one (or two) smooth sentences. If you have more time, or your audience is quite interested, then expound on each topic. Use stories and specific examples instead of generalities. This really helps make the problem or solution more real and impactful.

The clearly defined

It is also helpful in speeches or long answers to give your listener reference points, or some articles call these milestones. “I have three points. The first is that a vending machine is made of metal, and would therefore sink. Second, at sea there is no electricity. Therefore, the spirals wouldn’t turn and no sales data would be recorded for the vending management system….now that I’ve made my second point, my third and final is that….” These can seem obvious or unnecessary in writing, but are more helpful when people are just listening to you without visual aids.

The Problem – Solution

Go back to the days of answering essay questions in school. Remember when your teachers told you to repeat the question in your answer? Well, little did I understand then, but my teachers where giving me an excellent strategy to answer interview questions – it produces better quotes and helps the listener clearly identify what part or issue you are responding to, especially if the topic is a complicated one.

Lastly, put in something personal to produce a strong impact for the audience even if it’s only a few short words. It can connect you with your listeners. “I don’t know how we will overcome this idea that vending machines could provide food during an ocean voyage, but we will.” 

In this modern world of electronic media, tradeshows offer a special time that we can meet, put faces to names and emails as well as really dig deep into topics of interest, asking those questions we’ve been wondering about from our desks. Take advantage of it, and hopefully these tips will help, especially if you happen to be queried by yours truly. 

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