Have you ever wondered why some presentations are so indigestible?
As communication coaches, one of our most rewarding tasks is helping our clients bring out, at its best, the idea they have in mind. Or, in my professor James Engell’s* own words:
“I have read student writing now for 40 years, in all shapes and sizes, in many different departments, and I would say, on the whole, that a lot of writing is not close enough to speech to be the best writing it can be. It gets stilted. It gets convoluted. It gets detached from direct language. It gets too wordy because people are nervous that they’re writing instead of saying something directly to someone. So I would say [to a student], let’s stop. Put down the paper, and you look at me and you tell me what is the most essential thing you were trying to say. And nine times out of ten that person will tell me in clear, semi-formal, well-composed language what their point was. And then I will say ‘Stop. Write that down.”
Well, most of the time speeches are so indigestible because they are conceived only in writing, and without previously singing them to anyone. And that is what we do: to listen to our clients, hear what they intend to say, and help them giving a talking tone, instead of a reading one to their idea. That’s life!
(*): head of the Harvard University course on Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking