One of the traps I see speakers fall into all the time is using generic words in their talks. You were made to live your dreams… We all face problems… Speakers need to handle the issues they will see on stage… I learned a lot from that experience… Your team is made up of a variety of players with different needs.
The problem is not that the statements are not true – they are, almost always. The problem is they don’t connect with the audience in a way that causes them to realize you are talking to them. I’ve never had a “problem”: but I’ve come perilously close to running out of money and I hurt those I love all the time. I don’t face “stuff”: but I do run into my wit’s end knowing what to do next in parenting and pondering how to invest my resources to grow my business.
With just a few seconds of thought and a few well-placed commas (pauses), you will skyrocket the engagement of your audience by being specific.
You were made to live your dreams… like taking that once-in-a-lifetime trip, finishing (starting?) that book, restoring that lost relationship
We all face problems… unexpected health challenges, worries about our financial future, relationships that cause stress…
Speakers have lots of issues to handle… interruptions from over-exuberant audience members, technology that doesn’t cooperate, and nerves that can debilitate our ability to think…
I learned a lot from that experience… how to stand up for what I believe, how to take a lesson from failure, and how to value people more than things…
Your team is made up of a variety of players with different needs… some need to hear you tell them they are a success, some just need to have a chance, and some need to use their team as an outlet from the realities of their lives…
My guess is the second set of topics caused you to imagine… A person, an event, a place. You got a picture. That is the power of the specific. Instead of you just talking, it’s me thinking. And it opens the door for me to accept whatever you’re about to say.
Words like “things”, “stuff”, “challenges” should only be used with specific examples that cause the audience to picture THEIR (remember who this is about… Rule #1!) situation. Ooh, there’s another one: “Situation”. Perhaps… their dissatisfaction with their current condition, their hope for a better tomorrow, their commitment to spend more time with the ones they love.
In speaking (and writing), the specific is always more powerful than the generic. Next time you hear or see one of those words, drop in a colon, followed by a comma-delimited list of specifics. And you’ll see your audience connect with deeper emotion… and attention.
Communication matters. What are you saying?
This article was published in the March 2016 edition of our monthly speaking tips email, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today and receive our FREE download, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.” You can unsubscribe at any time.
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Another very helpful post, Alan. Because I start from a standard deck, I worry that my teaching can be too generic for my audience. I look for language and concepts specific to that client, to build a cognitive connection between my content and their work. This post will help me be more intentional about that. Thanks!
Especially in Training, the more specific you can be, the more the audience will engage AND apply what you are sharing. They need to know two things (at least) from you:
1) that you are an expert and have examples/experience that relates to them
2) that what you are teaching applies to their real world.