Summarize Your Points—Even in a Short Speech

November 7, 2012

Even in a short talk of three to five minutes, a speaker is very apt to cover so much ground that at the close the listeners are a little hazy about all his main points. However, few speakers realize that. They are misled into assuming that because these points are crystal clear in their own minds, they must be equally lucid to those listening. The truth is—not at all. The speaker has been pondering over his ideas for some time. But his points are all new to the audience; they are flung at the audience like a handful of shot. Some may stick, but the most are liable to roll off in confusion. Those listening are liable to “remember a mass of things but nothing distinctly.”

An anonymous Irish politician is reported to have given this recipe for making a speech: “First, tell them that you are going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them that you have told them.” This is a clever approach to speech making.

Dale Carnegie used the following example to demonstrate this principle. The speaker was a traffic manager for one of Chicago’s railways:

“In short, gentlemen, our own back dooryard experience with this block device, the experience in its use in the East, in the West, in the North—the sound operating principles underlying its operation, the actual demonstration in the money saved in one year in wreck prevention, move me most earnestly and unequivocally to recommend its immediate installation on our Southern branch.”

See what he has done? You can see it and feel it without having heard the rest of the talk. He has summed up in a few sentences, in sixty-two words, practically all the points he has made in the entire talk.

If you feel that a summary like that helps, make that technique your own in your own talks and speeches.


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