Apparently, Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. Although what constitutes a simple explanation will vary according to the level of knowledge the audience already has, the ability to sum up a complex situation or argument in a few clear words is essential to success in public speaking.
Political speechwriter Phil Collins, whose masterclass I attended last year, offered similar advice. A crucial step in preparing an effective speech, he said, is to reduce the core message to a single, simple sentence. This will give your talk purpose and direction as well as clarity.
If, once you’ve done your research and gathered your material, you find yourself unable to identify the central point you want to make and express it pithily, it’s possible that you don’t understand the subject well enough. Either that or you haven’t given sufficient thought to what you’re aiming to achieve with this speech or presentation. Preparing a talk can be a laborious process but the effort you put into refining and elucidating your core message will stand you in excellent stead as you begin to structure and compose your talk. After all, if you don’t know what it is you’re actually saying, neither will your audience.