The first order of business when crafting a speech is to be clear. Clear about what you want to accomplish. Clear about explaining, developing, and supporting your main idea. Clear about the terms and concepts you use.
All good speeches are clear. That should go without saying.
But not all clear speeches are good.
A safe and nutritious meal can be tasteless. (Think of the food served in a college dining hall or cafeteria, or at most conferences.) So, too, a clear, easily comprehensible speech can be flat, boring, and insipid.
To praise a speaker for giving a clear speech is like praising a chef for preparing a meal that doesn’t make anyone sick. Faint praise, indeed.
Too often–and I’m guilty of this–speechwriters and speech coaches advise keeping speeches “short and simple.”
Keep your sentences short. Don’t use big words. Eliminate all inessential words, phrases, or thoughts. Chop out all digressions, asides, parenthetical remarks. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Follow that recipe too slavishly and you’ll sound like the runner-up of the Bad Hemingway Contest, speaking only in nouns and verbs, eschewing adjectives, adverbs, and metaphors, piling on one short and direct sentence after another.
A speech isn’t an impersonal reporting of the facts, objective and unadorned.
A good speech is a window into your thinking, your way of seeing the world, your personality. It should be as rich, deep, and uniquely interesting as you are.