Prevent Torture: Less is More in speech


I don’t know about you, but lately as I attend different events from weddings, to khutbahs, to fundraisers, to community related city hall meetings, to yes parenting, I have a noticed a growing trend of too many, too long speeches.


Photo courtesy of Michael Dunlea

Sometimes I think maybe it’s just me being frustrated, agitated, and yes at times cringing inside myself, but then I start to observe other folks around me, and realize I am not the only one. This is not a talk down to anyone reading this, as my kids have fully validated to me, that I lecture them too much, but I’ll come back to that later in the post. As much as we want to share everything we know, I will share 10 ideas to make more out of less.

  1. Write it down. Even though you may be a gifted speaker, it’s good for clarity of thought.
  2.  100 words equals  5 mins for normal speech, unless you speak really fast. Remember it’s important to breathe and pause to let the audience catch up.
  3. Edit it ruthlessly. First self edit and then have your loved ones listen to it.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. The larger the audience or more important the event the more time  you should spend preparing.
  5. If its a wedding or fundraiser and you will be serving food, never use food as hostage (you don’t want angry and hungry guests)
  6. In weddings if one person in family covers POV (point of view), whole family is covered (same applies to friends).
  7. A few verses of Quran are sufficient to start an event. I know some people are gonna get real mad at me, but let me say it anyway, you don’t need to go into a 15-30 minute recitation with translation and tajweed. Reciting or listening to Quran is a blessing well served on your own or in prayer or in Ramadan. Make it short.
  8. In Fundraisers, every member of the team doesn’t have to speak and you don’t need to show them in video and then be on stage in person. If this is not your 1st or 2nd event, it’s say the 5th or 15th, you don’t need to go over all your organizations history. Skip the details, your supporters which are most of the audience already know you and for the few who are new, will pick it up. If the fundraiser says “I will only take 10 minutes” then that should not turn into an hour.
  9. In a Public Event e.g. City Council/Planning Commission hearing for the masjid, coordinate your speakers. Follow the adage of “show not tell.” Rather than say we are a diverse community and all the speakers are of the same demographic, bring in people of of different age, nationality, sex (brothers and sisters), race.
  10. Just because it is open mike, doesn’t mean everyone in the community should say something. Everyone’s presence at the event is sufficient. Every speaker should have a simple clear message to articulate, not for each to repeat the same message again and again and again (get the picture).
Leave your audience whether that be guests, media, officials, speechless. The best way to connect with your audience is on an emotional level rather than just an intellectual one. Tell a personal story. Share something they don’t know or can easily Google. Even though you may have a captive audience it is still important to be respectful of their time and presence.
Which brings me to the story, a young boy went to his mom and asked a question. She said, “why don’t you ask daddy?” He replied: “I don’t want to know that much about it.” This brings the message back home to me as a parent. Anytime my kids’ radar tells them Dad is about to give them a sermon, I can sense them shutdown. Now I too for important messages write them down, edit, tie them down and deliver in a minute. So far it’s working or at least I like to think so. Does that mean I have to untie them now?
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” How do you want your audience to feel?

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