But that's not always true. It's more important to be a solid communicator. You'll accomplish more if you come across as authentic and your message is well thought-out, direct, and easy to understand. In my experience, this is the true way to excel at public speaking.
Cultivate these 8 habits when you create your message, and you're almost guaranteed to have a presentation that engages listeners and hits the mark.
1. Keep it simple.
Abraham Lincoln was our only poet president. The Gettysburg Address, considered by many the best speech in American history, is 272 words long. It tells the story of the past, the present, and the future of our country. Past, present, future is a good, simple way to build a tidy talk.
2. Keep it short.
When asked what makes a great presentation, Ted Sorenson, President Kennedy's speechwriter, said, "Brevity, levity, and charity." Notice what he put first. People clap at the end of a presentation because it's over. Science says between 18 and 20 minutes is optimal.
3. Use metaphors, not explanations.
George P. Shultz used metaphor to make it clear what the phrase "too big to fail" means. He reminded us that when one old-fashioned Christmas light went out, all the others did too. For a lay audience, that's shorter and sweeter than a technical explanation.
4. Don't dump.
Beware the temptation to show off. Don't dump data. Make a few points supported by data.
5. Try the problem/solution model.
Define the problem. Then explain that you have the best solution. Describe the steps to success. It's a structure that creates drama and holds attention.
6. Don't use meaningless modifiers.
Remove meaningless adverbs ("really," "very," etc.) from your text. Use a strong action-packed adjectives instead. Don't say "very old," say "ancient." Don't say "really great," say "top-notch" or "first string." Remove all "ers," "uhs," "ums," and "ahs" from your speech. Remove all, "like, you knows," and "I means..." They garble your message and slow you down.
Few of us can speak extemporaneously and be brief. We end up wandering in our thoughts to make our point. Know what you want to say. Write it down, edit it to its core, and practice it. And when you're in front of your audience, compose your sentences in your mind before you speak them. It's a paradox. When you slow down to compose a sentence in your head, your presentation goes faster.
8. Be more than brief. Be interesting.
A famous preacher was invited to preach before Queen Victoria. He was warned Her Majesty preferred her sermons short. When the preacher was done, she said, "Sir, you were brief." He said, "Ah, Ma'am, I like never to be tedious." She said, "You were also tedious."
Surprise! We can be boring in 10 seconds flat. But these habits help ensure that you'll have an interesting message, a solid delivery, and be easy to understand.