But when it comes to public speaking, variety can be your enemy.
For Public Speaking, Repetition is Your Friend — No Matter What Your High School English Teacher Told You!
Anyone who’s ever studied English or writing in high school or beyond has probably been taught this “Golden Rule”:
Never repeat yourself.
And lots of my clients have carried this seemingly-sage advice into their adult public speaking experiences.
Unfortunately, as discussed in Public Speaking Tip 4: Writing “Rules” Aren’t for Public Speaking, what’s a reasonable proposition for writing (and for high school!) doesn’t work when you’re talking about speech.
That’s because listening is a fundamentally different activity than reading.
If I’m reading your words and lose my train of thought… or get distracted… or run into an argument that isn’t entirely clear… I can go back and look for the information, argument, or action I missed noting on my first pass.
But if I’m listening to you, and I don’t follow or grasp something that you say, I’ve lost my one and only chance to understand you — unless you repeat yourself.
How to Repeat, Repeat, Repeat Yourself
To avoid needless repetition, repeat the things that matter most:
- Your key message;
- The central point your presentation is making;
- The take-away — the thing you’d like your audience to do; and
- Any important information (a proper name, an important statistic, a quote) that you think will be difficult for people to hear.
When you repeat yourself with a purpose, your audience will experience this as reinforcement. Far from being annoyed by it, they’ll probably be grateful that they had another opportunity to catch your most important thinking.
Speaking is not like writing. Hearing is not like reading.
And for public speaking, an important way to insure that your message gets heard is to repeat, repeat, repeat yourself!