Three Public Speaking Principles
“Remember, the thoughts that you think and the statements you make regarding yourself determine your mental attitude. If you have a worthwhile objective, find the one reason why you can achieve it rather than hundreds of reasons why you can’t.”– Napoleon Hill
The U.S. Army Field Manual (FM 3-0) specifies the principles of war as Objective, Offensive, Mass, Economy of Force, Maneuver, Unity of Command, Security, Surprise, and Simplicity.
It is amazing how you can adapt these principles of war to point the way to an outstanding speech. Below, I explain how Objective, Economy of Force, and Simplicity apply to your presentations.
FM 3-0 defines objective as “direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective.”
Adapting FM 3-0’s definition of objective related to public speaking, you must direct every presentation toward a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective.
Your presentation objective should be crystal clear to your audience. The best way to do this is to tell your audience your presentation objective explicitly. Examples are:
“The objective of my presentation is to contrast the simple rules of chess to the complexity of play”
“The objective of my presentation is to convince you that you can speak in public.”
“The objective of my presentation is to show you how a diversified portfolio (e.g., stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.) is your best protection against economic volatility.”
I advise you to also mention the objective of your presentation often during your presentation.
As your presentation objective must be clear to your audience, you must craft your words, body language, and tone of voice in your allotted time evenly among your main points.
Economy of Force
FM 3-0 defines economy of force as “employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts.”
Adapting FM 3-0’s definition of economy of force related to public speaking, you must employ all your power as a speaker in the most effective way possible; allocate maximum power to your main points and minimum essential power to secondary ideas.
In other words, don’t stray from your message. You use valuable energy doing this that you could be spending on your message.
You also need to use economy between your presentation’s main points to ensure each of your main points is allotted approximately the same time and emphasis. If you can’t seem to do this, one or more of your main points is probably not a main point.
As a Toastmaster for over thirty years, one of the most common remarks from beginning speakers is, “What will I talk about?” In my long experience as a public speaker, the opposite is usually the challenge – how to say what you want to say while keeping your presentation within the time allotted.
Economy of force in public speaking also includes saying the minimum correct words on a particular main point and then moving on to the following main point. I have seen speakers “hit the nail on the head” driving home their point, and yet they continue to “hammer” the same “nail” even after their point has been made.
You need to move on to the following main point in this case. There is nothing quite annoying for an audience member than to understand the speaker’s point while the speaker keeps over and over making the same point.
So, your presentation objective must be clear to your audience, and you must make prudent decisions about what you will and will not include in your presentation.
However, the “bedrock” of any presentation is its simplicity.
FM 3-0 defines simplicity as “prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding.”
Adapting FM 3-0’s definition of simplicity related to public speaking, you must keep your presentation delivery simple so your audience can immediately understand your message. If your message is muddled, refer to the “Objective” section above.
You should follow the principle of simplicity in your presentation for two reasons. First, when your presentation is simple to follow, your audience will be most receptive to your message. Secondly, simplicity in your presentation will also allow a shorter practice period and will be must easier for you to remember what to say.
I have talked about only having three main points in your presentations of any time length because your audience and you can remember three main points. Four or more main points make it harder to remember your message and lessens the emphasis on your main points. On the other hand, two main points or less befuddles audiences because there is not enough material to convey your message, and, therefore, your audience will be confused about your message.
So, your presentation objective must be clear to your audience. You must make prudent decisions about what you will and will not include in your presentation. Finally, your presentation must be simple enough for your audience to follow and for you to deliver.
These three principles of public speaking guide all outstanding presentations.
Observe them and “drink in” your audience’s applause!
Call to Action
Ensure the objective of your presentation is “crystal clear” to your audience up front and during your presentation
Be judicious in your presentation content selection. If what you want to say doesn’t fully support your message, take it out – when in doubt, take it outMake your presentation simple enough so your audience has no doubt about your message and so you can deliver it with ease and confidence
“Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy”– Sir Isaac Newton
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”