November 3, 2008

Your #1 goal: Say what you mean

(Posting without image, as Blogger is not cooperating this morning.)

One of my favorite movie scenes is from "Moonstruck." Johnny has just returned from a trip to visit his dying mother, and has stopped by the home of his fiancée, Loretta. This conversation takes place between Johnny and Cosmo, Loretta's father, who happens to know that Loretta is on a date with Ronny, Johnny's brother.

Cosmo: You'll have your eyes opened for you, my friend.

Johnny: I have my eyes open.

Cosmo: Oh yeah? Well, stick around. Don't go on any long trips.

Johnny: I don't know what you mean.

Cosmo: I know you don't. That's the point. I'll say no more.

Johnny: You haven't said anything!

Cosmo: And that's all I'm saying.

The other day, I heard a similar conversation on "Lipstick Jungle:"

Joe: It's not about me. I thought it might be a back door way to help Victory.

Nico: Why don't you try the front door?

Joe: Well, she may not answer. Or let me in. She may be entertaining someone else.

Nico: I think her house is pretty quiet these days.

Joe: How quiet?

Nico: I give up. I'm exhausted. What do you want?

In each of these conversations, someone is beating around the bush, using a metaphor or series of metaphors to express what they're trying to say.

Either for reasons of protecting the other person's feelings or just playing along, neither of these conversations makes sense to one or both of the people having them.

If you ever find your audience staring blankly at you during a presentation, take a moment to listen to what you're actually saying. Instead of jabbering on, really hear yourself.

Business presentations, especially, tend to be so full of jargon, lingo and euphemisms that it's possible your audience isn't fully understanding what you're saying.

When preparing and practicing your presentation, make sure that you're speaking in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Record yourself and listen for those phrases that might perplex your audience. Don't fall into the trap of trying to prove how brilliant and intelligent you are with all your big words and complicated expressions.

Getting your message across to the audience in a way that they can actually hear it and use it is your number 1 goal.

Heard any good obfuscation lately?

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