Does your speech need Spanx? 5 ways to rein it in

If you speech is bulging with unnecessary information and feels awkward, it’s time to tighten it up. Here’s how.

You’ve tried and tried, but it just won’t fit. You can envision it in a smaller size—one that would make you look good—but it keeps spilling over the edges and bulging at the seams. It feels awkward and uncomfortable, but you don’t know what to do.

I’m talking about your speech, not the way you fit into your jeans. But the solution to both problems may essentially be the same. You have to rein in your speech if you want a good fit. Here are five ways to put some limits on your loquaciousness:

1. Work with a text. For those who always talk longer than they should, written remarks are the time-honored way to focus and contain your speaking. Just be sure to honor the text—don’t stray from it—and time your speech before you deliver it.

2. Plan a message. A good message focuses on three key points. Use them as an outline to organize your remarks briefly or at length.

3. Limit your slides. There are a lot of models to follow. Seth Godin suggests using 200 slides in 40 minutes, or 12 seconds per slide. Business Insider tells start ups seeking financing to keep their pitch decks to six killer slides. Caveat: Limiting your slides does not mean you can add a five-minute video, 4,000 bullet points or a small type version of the U.S. Constitution on one slide.

4. Limit your time—severely. The Influencer Project held an online event where 60 speakers spoke for 60 seconds each. That’s something to try if you really want to test yourself! See what you can do by cutting your remarks in half, then in half again. Your audience will be grateful.

5. Hand over the controls to automate the pace. Ignite competitions allow five minutes and 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. This format takes practice, but there’s a reason it’s popular with audiences: it keeps the speech moving forward, and proscribes the slides and the talking. You don’t need to announce this tactic to your audience as long as you keep to it.

Denise Graveline is the president of don’t get caught, a communications consultancy. She also writes The Eloquent Woman blog, where a version of this article originally ran.

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