Here's how you write a jargon-free speech that's crystal clear

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

'Hey team, if we just leverage our ideation and enhance our corporate synergy, we can operationalize our holistic trajectory and drill down frictionlessly into the millennial market'.

If you've ever heard a sentence like this and cringed inside, use this simple planning technique to ensure your presentations are clean, concise and accessible for your audience.

There's been a lot of backlash against buzzwords of late – for good reason. Overcomplicating a presentation with needlessly complicated terms is off-putting at best and arrogant at worst.

Luckily, a bit of outlining can help us all avoid this presentation pitfall.

What is outlining?

Outlining is a technique of breaking down all the components of your talk into simple parts before building it all back up again.

Before you work out any of the nitty-gritty details, separate everything you want to say into chunks to help you get your bearings.

Every chunk should function as a self contained idea or mini- argument, with a clear beginning, middle and end. When you're satisfied with each major chunk, break that down into even smaller chunks until you get to detailed single points.

Try out different ways of delivering each point, and distill each one until it's as clear and concise as possible. Ask yourself 'is this information relevant to my audience? Does it really strengthen my argument?'

Label each smaller chunk according to type, e.g. 'story/anecdote', 'assertion', 'fact/ figure', 'question', 'activity'. This will give you a better understanding of the makeup of your content and help you recognise patterns. 

It helps to make yourself a map of your talk so you can see and learn it more easily. David Straker at changingminds.org suggests laying your structure out in a Word document:

Structures in text can be shown by indenting. You can also visualize the structure using a tree structure, with lines between headings spreading out from the presentation root.

Applied to marine biologist Asha De Vos's talk, it might look something like this:


Story/ history – Brief history of whale numbers and conservation efforts

 Facts – Why whales are killed

     – Save the Whales movement


Assertion – 'Whales help maintain the stability of the oceans, and even provide services to human society'

Facts – Fecal deposits and why they're important

    – Migration and fertilizer transportation

    – Carcasses and the food cycle

    – Carcasses and carbon distribution


Assertions – 'We need to take action to prevent harm against whales'

                    – 'We need to understand the true ecosystem value of whales'

Call to action – 'Let's save the whales again'


And that's all there is to it. 

Do you have a foolproof technique for keeping your talk to-the-point? Please share in the comments below. 


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