Monday, July 13, 2009

Your priorities: dumb it down, dress it up?

On Facebook, the Eloquent Woman's discussion of your top priorities for your own speaking includes "vocabulary...I either seem to dumb it up or condes[c]end." Knowing how to gauge your language and your explanations during a presentation or speech means knowing your audience--and knowing yourself as a speaker. Here are some points to ponder as you assess your next audience:

  • Even the most technically savvy audience welcomes clear speaking: You can't go wrong with terms that any listener can understand--and there's no need to think of it as "dumbing down" or "condescending." If you catch yourself thinking that way, it's time to reexamine your motivation for speaking to this group. No audience will know everything you know, and that doesn't mean they're dumb. Nor should your words be.
  • If you're not sure how to calibrate your talk, ask. Ask the organizers, if you don't know the group, and listen for cues that will tell you more about the audience. What do they want to hear about? Some organizations ask for audience input before a presentation, so be sure you get access to it before you begin. Failing that, take a poll of the audience at the start, and ask them what their levels of experience are with your topic.
  • Use message techniques to make your words memorable and clear. If you can help me follow your points with useful analogies, an outline that follows the rule of three key points, and other message techniques, I'm more likely to understand you.

I hope you'll enter the 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest so we can work together on priorities like this one!

Related posts: All our posts on audience considerations

Messages and the rule of three

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