What skills could you transfer to your public speaking, from other disciplines?
For instance, in my work as a learning designer, I’ve been heavily influenced by experts like Cathy Moore. While her advice is aimed at designers of e-learning, you might be surprised how much of it could also apply to your next talk or presentation.
Like to see an example? Try Cathy’s post called How to get everyone to write like Ernest Hemingway. (It’s under 800 words, so it’s only about a 3-minute read.)
What’s that for?
- Use simple techniques to make your writing more readable (or conversational).
- Easily measure how readable your writing is (with Microsoft Word).
Why write like Hemingway?
Those 2 steps will make your content more popular
Cathy claims those 2 steps will make your content more popular. Perhaps you find that hard to believe.
Well, to support her case, she ranks the readability scores for about a dozen newspapers and magazines.
The result? Popular ones like “Family Handyman” and “Better Homes and Gardens” get top scores.
To paraphrase Cathy:
4 writing tips
Writing like Hemingway isn’t as hard as you might think. You can take simple steps, like these 4 tips that Cathy shares:
- Use short sentences and short words.
- Say “you” and “we”.
- Write active sentences (avoiding forms of the verb “to be” – like “is”).
- Turn tacked-on clauses (like “blah blah, which…” or “blah blah, because…”) into separate sentences.
How could Word help?
Cathy also explains how you can make Microsoft Word show your document’s readability score. But you might wonder how that can help, when you most likely want to use PowerPoint – not Word.
Well, you could use either of these 2 workflows to write your speaker notes:
- Write in PowerPoint. Then, you can easily export your speaker notes to Word. That way, you can quickly check how readable or conversational your notes are.
- Write out your speech in Word. Either you’ll then create your sides separately in PowerPoint, or you don’t plan to use slides at all.
How to tweak Word
At first, the option to show your document’s readability score is turned off. But you can turn it on: In Word, click File, Options, Proofing, then tick Show readability statistics.
If your version of Word’s like mine though, that checkbox might be greyed out until you tick Mark grammar errors as you type.
But, after you tick Show readability statistics, I strongly recommend you then clear the tick from Mark grammar errors as you type.
That’s because Word’s grammar checker’s really awful! (It often suggests you change correct grammar – to make it incorrect!)
Getting the right stats
Now you’ve tweaked Word, you’ll see readability stats when you complete a spelling-check. (To start a spelling-check, you either click Review and then Check Document, or press F7.)
Cathy recommends you use the Flesch Reading Ease – and ignore the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level:
The higher the Ease score the better, as that shows your talk’s more conversational. Cathy suggests aiming for a score in the 60s.
She goes on to say:
“…changing your style to get a higher score
can also have a profound effect on how
[your audience] feels about you”
Long live that feeling!
Over to you
So there you have it. You’ve seen:
- Why to write like Hemingway – to make your talk more popular.
- 4 tips for writing that way.
- 2 workflows that let you measure how readable (or conversational) your speech or presentation is with Word.
What do you think? For instance, how applicable do you think this is to public speaking?
Let me know your views in the comments.
Also check out
- Why present? JFK said it all…
- Be the spark! Ignite ACTion with your talk
- Want your talk ranked #1? Make it conversational – here’s how… [PACE approach, part 3]
- Dump text from your slides! Here’s how – without forgetting what to say (or skipping key details)
- Slide makeover: 5 steps to replace boring bullets with audience awe
- Today’s most popular posts, and the latest visitor comments