Keep Your Speech Simple

by Stephen Boyd | May 31, 2006

Some people cannot give short, concise comments in conversation, nor can they give a "yes" or "no" answer to a simple closed question. Voice mail messages are often entirely too long. Making long, rambling comments in discussion or taking two minutes to answer a question which could be done in a few seconds can negatively affect the credibility of the speaker. In fact, you may notice that you avoid certain people just because they take forever to communicate a message. One of the traits of an effective communicator is his or her ability to communicate simply and concisely. Let's look at some ways of doing that.

First, think before you speak. If you will take a moment to collect your thoughts before you speak, you will generally have shorter messages. A short pause before speaking will not seem awkward to the other person and will give you a moment to begin to organize your thoughts. When you are preparing for an important conversation, practice what you plan to say on your way to the meeting. Spending time going over a message in your mind before speaking it will help you have simpler direct messages.

Second, speak an idea and stop. Don't allow yourself to elaborate by going into detail. If elaboration is needed, the listener will let you know nonverbally or will ask for clarification. Don't think that adding description will enhance your message; it will not unless the listener asks for more detail. Don't allow yourself to express an idea that leads to another idea that leads to another idea. This will inevitably create a rambling style of communication that will make the listener begin to daydream or think of other things instead of continuing to listen to you.

Stay on the subject. As you are conversing, keep reminding yourself of the main thrust of the topic and speak directly to it. Don't allow yourself to mention extraneous material even though it may be interesting and stimulating. This will get you off the topic and remove the simplicity of the message.

If you tend to ramble, recruit a friend who is frequently with you in conversation remind you with a nonverbal sign when you start to ramble or go on too long with a comment. Perhaps that person could touch his or her forehead or spread a hand when you start to digress. This can help your self-discipline to keep it simple.

In our information age, people get tired of receiving information. If you can keep messages short and concise and still meaningful, you will earn the right to be heard.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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