Don’t Build Your House on Sand

The Simple Foundations of Building Your Style

As the advisory title states, building something on unprepared or shifting ground is only going to cause problems down the line. To that end, I wanted to impart some basic but altogether important pointers. That way, you’ll be setting yourself up for steady and untroubled progress.

You want to see these foundations as a solid ‘core’ to your speaking style. No matter, if you are speaking to inform, persuade or entertain. Picture the Leaning Tower of Pisa for example, at the time it was an incredible feat of engineering and design. Executed with perfection. What was missing, was an all important foundation. Nothing to compliment and support the structure’s impressive nature. Whether you ignore the principle of the foundation or the building without paying the correct attention to either one will bring you nothing but bad news.

So picture your blocks, see them as the consistent structure on which you should always be using when crafting and delivering your project. Your project will sit on top of your foundations and bring you all the respect and compliments. However, you will know in your heart that your foundations are what made it possible.

Brevity, Clarity and Relevance.

Although a combination of pointers, I feel that all three are inseparable. Your target to aim for at all times is the perfect combination of all three. Always ask yourself if something is relevant. If it isn’t, cut it out. That explains brevity too!

Brevity is the art of getting to the end of your journey in the least possible words. I see people read word for word off of their presentation slide. Two things. Firstly, I imagine you created that slide so people could read it. Secondly, let them read it. You have wasted words and a presentation slide, not to mention the insulting and boring nature of your brief if your plan is to parrot everything you are visually presenting.

Clarity doesn’t need much covering. You need to be clear and audible to everyone listening. Microphones are great, but they aren’t always available. More importantly, you need to give your work clarity. Talking in jargon, business lexicon and using specialist language in a brief doesn’t aid clarity. Imagine someone off the street has just walked in and intends to listen. Would they walk out of that meeting wondering what a APFSDS is? For your ‘clarity’ it is an Armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot, something which Tank guns use. But only people who work in a very specialised industry would be aware of that. So always speak a little slower and clearer than you would in a normal conversation, but strive for clarity in your presentation as much as your speech.


We covered giving at great length in a previous post (The Aims of a Great Speaker). You are they to give to an audience. Give them as much insight and value as you can. Don’t just highlight a trend, recite statistics or make bold calls on the future. You need to tell your audience WHY you think these points are important and WHY they should be interested in them. Thats when you add value and truly give to an audience. You give them your assessments, and back them up with the supporting material. Adding value is simple, If you put a presentation slide on a screen and read it verbatim, you add nothing. display the slide, and talk through its contents and explain WHY those specific points made it onto that slide. People call it the ‘so what factor’. Tell someone the Polar Ice Caps are melting. So what. So… It is causing sea levels to rise and wildlife to be killed as a habitat and fragile Eco-system is being lost, due mostly to human activity. People now see your point about the Ice Caps and you have told them the ‘So-What’.


Again, a simple word with a very deep field. Engaging with an audience isn’t always possible. I have briefed Refugees and Displaced persons in a theatre of conflict. I couldn’t have a positive and humour filled engagement with my audience. I had to engage on a level of understanding and compassion, so as to reassure and help. Pitch yourself at the right level and ensure that you are engaging with an audience in a way that builds rapport and trust between you. Making observational jokes about your boss when presenting a project probably isn’t going to build rapport and trust. Humour is a universal language, however it should be tempered when your subject requires an audience to invest themselves.


Inspiring someone isn’t restricted to your final closing address when speaking. Inspiration should be leaking from you and your work from the moment you begin. Your content, speech, insights, and yourself should all contain an air of inspiration. Sure you are going to make a plea or call to action at the end of your presentation, but your beginning and middle should also be filling the room with inspiration. I try to inspire by using soft skills such as my body language and use of eye contact. Pausing in a speech at a pertinent time is also a powerful psychological tool. You are literally giving the audience the short time to compute the bombshell you have just dropped on them. In my past, I briefed soldiers in training on future careers they could pursue in military. Inspiration was the name of the game. It was all about picking targets in the audience that I knew were the ‘right ones’. I would deliver my speech to everybody. However, I knew that it would only inspire the individuals that I could see were wide-eyed and on the front of their seat taking notes. Understand that not everyone will be inspired, you can put it on a plate for them by using these techniques, but if someone isn’t receptive they won’t get the message.

With these solid pointers, I hope you make these a part of your framework and foundation when crafting your work. Feel free to add more and test other combinations within these six core ideals. Rest assured, if you follow to make these your foundation and strive to perfect your work in line with these principles, you will not walk away with a bad piece of work.

There are a thousand materials with which you can build  your house with, but only several with which to build your foundations with.




Author: Will

Hi, I'm Will. Founder and Lead Coach at Lib-Orator, a public speaking and sales training specialist.

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