How the 10 to 1 Rule of Thumb Can Save Your Speeches

Speaking to the Surgeons and researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada

Speaking to the Surgeons and researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada

The Problem

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you try to do too much, you’ll end up doing nothing at all.” Well…there is an old speaker’s proverb as well that states…

If you squeeze your information in, you’ll squeeze your audience out.”

There is no time to engage them, to jump on the spontaneous moments, or to really have a conversation with your audience. Most of the times I’ve failed in speaking can be linked to me ignoring the advice you are about to receive. 

I once heard Bill Gove (first President of the National Speakers Association) say that “Speaking is a dialog, not a monologue.” You will be giving a monologue if you squeeze your information in. Putting in too much information forces you to rush through your speech and that is disastrous. As I always say…

You can’t rush and resonate”


 My 10:1 Rule of Thumb Solution

So what’s the solution? Here’s a suggestion to consider. Come up with a rule of thumb. My 10:1 Rule of Thumb is simple. For every 10 minutes I speak, I feel I can make one major point, illustrate it effectively, and make it palatable for my audience.  Therefore, if I am called to do a 45- minute keynote, how many points will I make? Right, four.

A meeting planner might call and say, “Craig, we want you to do a 45-minute speech.” I’ll say, “Great, you’ll get the 4 Rs to Remarkable Results.” One might call and say, “Craig, we want you to do a 30-minute speech.” I’ll say, “Great, you’ll get the 3 Rs to Remarkable Results.” He might call back and say, “Craig, we just want you to give a 10 minute speech.” I’ll say, “Okay buddy but you’re down to an R…but it will be remarkable. I stick by this because I refuse to squeeze in my information. It’s too costly.


 Less Can Be More

I follow this rule of thumb to keep me from squeezing my information in. The hard part is that I know a lot about these topics and so to put more information in is ALWAYS tempting, but it’s also always trouble.

I have had several people submit 5-7 minute speeches where they’re trying to make 3-5 points. The key question to ask yourself is, “Why do I want to speak?” If it’s to change lives then it’s better to give 4 points and have them remember 3 then to give 15 points and have them walk away with nothing. With structure, less can be more.


 The Profitable Side Benefit

A side benefit to you not trying to squeeze in your information is that people will SENSE that what you taught them is only the tip of the iceberg for what you know about that topic. As a result, because they’ll know there’s more where that came from, and they’ll look to you for next steps including future presentations. I’d rather have standing invitations than standing ovations. Let them invite you back.

When you finish your speech, you don’t want you audience looking at you as if to say, “You want me to do all of this?!” Instead, you want them to say, “I can do this. I can handle that.” When they act on that message, you have acted on their life. Congratulations, you made a difference.


 Your Turn

Work on your own rule of thumb and drive your points home. It’s better to drive 3 points home than to leave 15 points stranded. So go out there and give less and accomplish more. Well…you know what I mean.


Craig Valentine

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