How your speech and writing can change people
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Date: 12/29/2020 2:23:23 AM ( 5 mon ) ... viewed 332 times
"Clear writing is clear thinking." My 10th-grade English teacher shared that morsel of wisdom once as I was slogging through a 20-page term paper with no idea where I was going or how to make the points I wanted to make; every word I wrote led me further down a rabbit hole of rambling sentences, incomplete thoughts, and disjointed ideas. It felt like I was writing in circles.
If clear writing was clear thinking, then my thinking was as clear as mud. The problem wasn't that I couldn't put words to paper. The problem was I couldn't get those words to make sense. That's because I wasn't clear on my objective. I was trying to say too much and, as result, I was saying nothing.
Many speakers feel this way when they write speeches. They have too many ideas competing for attention and too many themes pulling them in different directions. There's no through-line to hold their arguments together and, so, their content feels jumbled and confused.
What's more, they lack a big idea — a powerful insight, perspective, or thought that serves as the backbone of their presentation; the big idea is the spine that holds everything up. In the words of TED curator Chris Anderson, the big idea is a "gift" transferred from the speaker's mind to the audience by way of a compelling talk. It's what separates a memorable speech from a mediocre one.
In his book Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, former political speechwriter James C. Humes writes, "Whether you are going to a breakfast meeting with a potential investor, making a sales talk, or delivering a product presentation, you need to first come up with the key message you want to leave with your audience."
Let that key message be your North Star. If you can't state your idea in a single sentence, don't give up. Keep at it. For many speakers, this is the hardest part of their speech — and the most critical one.
If you do the heavy mental lifting upfront, it will be much easier to craft clear, compelling copy when you sit down to write. As Humes notes, "Make figuring out your bottom-line purpose (your big idea) your first priority."
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This post originally appeared on Inc. and was published November 22, 2017. This article is republished here with permission.
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