Next time you speak, avoid this trap

Imagine standing in front of a huge, televised audience, with only a minute to introduce yourself. The stakes are enormous.

You’re running for U.S. President.

What do you say—and what do you leave out? That’s a problem that you and I, on a smaller stage, face daily.

At a recent Democratic debate, one of the candidates, a former U.S. Senator, told us that he had five daughters and one son. Fine.

Then he proceeded to name each one, plus tell us their occupations.

But after the first two daughters, he paused, as if he couldn’t remember a single thing about daughter #3.


Now I’ve only got two children, but clearly, as you have more & more kids, at some point—I don’t know the exact number—your mind turns completely to mush.

Then the candidate recovered: “Julia! Massage Therapist!” (Luckily, daughters #4 and #5 were both in school, so quickly dispensed with.)

But here’s the question—and it’s the same one your audience has: why do we need all this info?

Sometimes, when giving a talk, you and I fall in love with the details, as if they were our children; we want everyone to know all about them.

But this candidate’s main message was clear, without the details: “Look, if I can raise six kids, I can obviously run a country.”

Meanwhile, at a recent Republican debate, one of the candidates, a current Senator, said he’d eliminate five federal agencies. Then he proceeded to name each one.

Same trap. Same result.

He listed the Commerce Dept. twice, as if to imply, “You can’t just get rid of the Commerce Dept. once. Any idiot can do that. No, I’m going to get rid of it, and then I’m going to get rid of it again.”

Tip: Get rid of unnecessary details, again and again.


Because if these details are too much for you, the speaker, to remember, your audience doesn’t stand a chance.

© Copyright 2015 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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