It’s the season of political debate! Every speech you hear is filled with information that, on the surface, sounds important. Upon further reflection, the ideas don’t have a lot of meaning.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a political discussion. I’m out of my area of expertise when talking politics. The focus here is on the messages that candidates present.
What Does the Speech Really Mean?
Candidates at all levels of office make many statements that stir the emotions. “The number of our manufacturing jobs is down, and we’re going to bring those jobs back.” Or, “We’ve increased the number of jobs in our state over the past 4 years.”
When you think about these statements, they don’t tell you much. They’re just sound bites. Consequently, people walk away feeling empty.
What these statements need to make this information relevant is context.
How Do You Give Context?
Provide answers to questions like “compared to what?”
The statements above may be true. In order for them to have meaning, it’s important to offer comparative information.
For example, a candidate says, “The number of our manufacturing jobs is down. We’re going to bring those jobs back.”
You might wonder: “Down in what respect? How much are they down? And for what time frame? The last year? The last 10 years? The last 50 years?”
You may also wonder “How?” “How are you going to bring jobs back? What kind of jobs?”
Other Speakers Are Guilty
Politicians aren’t the only speakers who make vague statements. I’ve heard too many people give a speech that felt good in the moment, but offered nothing of substance.
This has been my concern about the term “motivational” speech. Too many of these have ideas that lack context or specific strategies that I can use after I hear the speech.
How do you get past the ‘fluff’ and provide substance?
One way is to offer comparison statistics. For instance, Sam is a current a client. He was preparing his monthly oral report to the his company owners. In the original draft, he had written that his team were at 93% of quota for the month. He seemed upset by this.
I asked him to explain the significance of the number. He said, “I actually sold 121% of quota, but the company ran out of inventory. The 93% number is the amount delivered, not sold.”
I said, “Sam, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice! Those other numbers are relevant. They need to be part of the report.
If he had presented his original version, he would have made himself look bad. It would have appeared that he was underperforming. The reality is, he did his job. It was another department that was impacting the original number.
By providing context to the number, Sam will help his bosses understand the big picture. They can more fairly judge his performance.
Give The Audience Substance
As you prepare your next speech, review your text. Ensure you’re not giving information that feels good, but doesn’t provide substance. Ask questions like “Compared to what?” or “How?” or “what does this mean?”
Do this, and you won’t come across as someone who gives a ‘sound-bite” speech.
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