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What do you really want to say?


By Daniel Kingsley



Clarity affords focus.

Thomas Leonard


Mystification is simple; clarity is the hardest thing of all.

Julian Barnes – Flaubert’s Parrot


He was really saying something – Bop bop shoo be doo wah.



Most people in most audiences will forget most of what you have to say.

This isn’t personal.  It’s how public speaking works.  It’s not a medium for conveying lots of detail.  At its best it’s a way for getting across a big idea, and inspiring people to find out more.

What this means is that the most important thing you can do if you are planning a presentation or talk is to hone your message, and to make sure it’s doing the job you want it to do.

This may seem obvious, but most of the people I coach forget this step or simply don’t do it well enough.  So let me give you my experience on what works in creating a really effective speech.


What are you trying to achieve here?

The first question to ask yourself is what you are trying to achieve in your talk or presentation.

Are you simply wanting to entertain your audience after dinner?  Are you seeking to persuade them of an idea?  Do you want them to invest in you or your product?

A good combined question for this is – What do you want your audience to do, think or feel after your speech?

Do – Would you like them to buy what you are selling, to approve your proposal, to book an individual consultation, to sell you to their boss?  If there was one specific action you wanted them to take after hearing your talk what would it be?

Think – What would you like them to believe by the end of your talk?  Narrow it down to a maximum of 3 propositions – ideally 1 or 2.

Feel – After your presentation do you want your audience to feel Elated? Optimistic?  Concerned? Energised? Curious?  Determined?  Your answer will depend completely on the situation you’re in.  See if you can find a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 things you’d like your audience to feel when you sit down.  Be really clear about it.


What’s the most important thing?

You may convey 3 propositions in your presentation.  As a maximum you cannot possibly expect anyone to remember more than 5.  But you need to be realistic – many people won’t remember more than 1 important thing you say.  So what do you want it to be?

Ask yourself:

  • If my audience only take away one idea from my presentation what would it be?
  • If their partner asked them at breakfast the next morning what they remembered from your talk – what one proposition would you like them to repeat?
  • Why is this the most important thing?

Then refine and hone this single message:

For example, you want to persuade your audience regarding the new pipeline project.  Your one key message might evolve in this way:

(1) The new pipeline is important.

(2) We must invest in the new pipeline.

(3) We must urgently invest in the new pipeline

(4) If we don’t invest in the new pipeline all our other ventures will fail, so we must do it immediately.

The final version of the message is much more powerful because it is specific, it includes the what and the why.

Keep going until you have found a version of the message that is short, clear, memorable and motivating.


Build on the correct foundations

Now you know what you really want to say and how you want your audience to respond.

Make sure that everything in your presentation serves these ends.  If a sentence or word isn’t actively doing one of these things it has no place there.  Be ruthless in your pruning.


So are you ready to write your talk now?  Not quite yet.  You’ve made a great start.  You know your point of view, but there’s a very important point of view that’s missing.  And that’s your audience.  What have they come to hear?  What turns them on and turns them off?  What do they need to hear in order to be persuaded?

The intersection between what you want to tell them and what they want to hear is the sweet spot.  That’s where your presentation should be.  And it’s what I’ll cover in my next blog post.

For now, I’d love you to give the principles above a try and let me know how you get on.

Happy planning!




p.s. If you’d like me to personally guide you through the creation of your next presentation, I’m very happy to do that.  Just contact us about booking a 1-2-1 coaching session.

Daniel Kingsley
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