The Biggest Speaking Mistake I Made for Years

Speaking to the students at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan

I’ve always prided myself in being a content-rich speaker so imagine my surprise when I had the following conversation after a speech. A couple ladies cornered me and said, “You had a lot of content in your speech.”

I said, “Thank you.”

They looked at me with concerned expressions and said, “We mean you had too much content.”

At first I thought, “Too much content?! Are you kidding me? I’ve spent all this time striving to be a content-rich speaker and now they’re telling me I have too much content?” But I simply said, “Thank you for the feedback.”

Guess what? They were right. But I’m not alone.

Do you have Too Much Content?

In fact, this has been such an overwhelming problem for so many speakers that the speaking industry developed the following proverb:

When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out.”

The problem with having too much content is just what one of the ladies told me. She said, “As soon as I’d begin writing something down, you’d say something else worth remembering and I wouldn’t catch it. Because you shared so many points so close together, I’m afraid I won’t recall any of them.”

Another gentleman (a legend in the National Speakers Association) once told me, “Craig, you are “machine-gunning your audience with too many points.” The good news is, once I made the adjustments you will pick up below, my connection automatically and instantly reached much deeper levels and that has had a lot to do with my career taking off.


Here’s the problem many speakers will face if they are not careful

When we start to know more and more about our topic, inevitably that “more” ends up finding its way into our speech. What’s important to realize about speaking is that oftentimes less is more.

“Just because you know more doesn’t mean you have to show more within that speech.”

If you have more points to give, you can always put them in a book!


Here are 3 great solutions to keep your audience from feeling lost or overwhelmed

 One: Use my 10 to 1 Rule of Thumb. Part of my mistake was that I tried to fit too many points into too little time. Now I use my 10 to 1 Rule of Thumb. Listen to the following quick 2-minute audio as I explained this concept in a recent speech.



It’s much better to give them 3 points they remember than 10 points they forget

Two: Tighten up your structure by calling back to each major point before you move onto the next point. For example, if my point is on Facing Reality, once I make the point I can transition by saying, “So you face reality with whatever measurement scale you use because, remember, you master what you measure. Once you face reality, the next step is to Relinquish what’s in the way…”

Every time you move to your next point, make sure you call-back to your previous points. Regularly calling back like this makes your message very clear and keeps your audience members from getting lost.

Three: Leave 5-10 minutes of buffer time or “space” in your speech. For example, if you’re scheduled to speak for 45 minutes, plan to speak for 35-40. Why? Because that leaves time for…

  • The introducer to introduce you
  • You to take advantage of spontaneous moments with your audience
  • The committee members to present you with any after-speech gifts, thank-yous, or acknowledgements

Most importantly, you leave your audience wanting more. I have never been admonished for finishing a few minutes early. In fact, I have been praised for it. But I have been reprimanded for finishing late.


What Happens When We Allow Space in our Speech?

When you’re so focused on getting through all of your material and everything you want to say, it’s nearly impossible to stay connected with your audience. You must leave space in your speech.

“You can’t rush and resonate at the same time.”

Leaving space benefits you in the following ways:

  • Gives you time for spontaneity so you can connect deeper and more personally with your audience
  • Gives your audience time to respond and react and know they are being heard
  • Gives you time to pause so your audience can reflect and digest your message
  • Ensures that you won’t exceed your time limit and mess up the conference’s agenda
  • Goes beyond a speech and creates an unforgettable experience



So What Can We Learn  from This?

Being content-rich should not include filling your audience up with content until they overflow. Instead, it should be about giving them a few solid, memorable, and actionable ideas that they can use to improve their situation. Indeed less is more. I’ll leave it at that.

Craig Valentine

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