Simple can be sophisticated

It just so happens I have two clients who talk too much in public.

Both are extremely bright, and both strive to speak as though they were writing chiseled prose.

When in the act of public speaking, they challenge themselves to cover all the bases, approach the topic through three different lenses, and construct clause-laden sentences in the workshop of the their minds before putting their polished utterances on the market for others to consider.

Each of them has been asked to stop it—to talk like a regular guy, get to the point, stop hemming and hawing.

None of their colleagues could quite put a finger on the problem, but the feedback flung in their general direction was, “You talk too much. It takes you too long to say stuff, and it’s hard to follow you.”

It’s as if both of them imagine themselves back in graduate school giving their oral arguments for their terminal degrees.

The number of whereas-es, however-s, nevertheless-es, and consequently-s, puts them at a disadvantage in the boardrooms where they often present.

Senior executives want the executive summary, which they will probe with questions should their antennae sense something amiss.

Theirs are cases of style blocking substance. An impulse to wordiness obscures the meaning of their words.

They both do too much public speaking and not enough private thinking. Or they’ve done their thinking but cling to a professional style that puts their business colleagues on edge.

Simple arguments stated simply do not necessarily lack sophistication. In fact, they may be the hardest to create.

You have to know what you want to say, and say it as clearly as possible, parting with all extraneous information, boiling it down, and talking in plain old English.

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