10 Ways to Clarify Your Message as a Public Speaker 

Be clear. Be clear. Be clear.

In the past weeks I have written about Public Speaking for Leaders and Public Speaking Gestures. Today I’m going to touch on something just as important to public speaking: Ways to Clarify Your Message.

Public speakers battle the urge to say too much. The challenge to clarify your message can also lead to oversimplification and lack of depth.

The reality is that we’ve all heard thousands of messages and remember few. What a colossal waste of time and energy for all parties involved!

Clarify your Message

So why do we go through the motions as listeners and public speakers? What drives us to allow complexity and confusion when we need simplicity and clarity?

I think we accept an absence of clarity. because we ourselves don’t clarify our message, desires, objectives or needs.

A void of clarity permits an abundance of confusion. Click To Tweet

I have to admit that I’ve attended many conferences without first clarifying my personal objectives. I’ll never forget a conference I attended in Ft. Worth, Texas. The organizers scheduled various big name speakers. I signed up, because I admired these speakers. But I never clarified what I hoped to achieve in attending.

To make a long story short…to this day I still remember listening to the various speakers. I even remember some of their names. But if I am honest, that’s where my memories of the event end. I remember very little of the content. The speakers addressed various aspects of the central theme. I “listened” to them all, but I remember nothing and saw no lasting benefit come out of the conference.

So why do I share this story as a listener and not as a public speaker? I think our willingness to speak without clarity originates in our earlier willingness to listen without intentionality.

I “listened” without clarifying my objective for attendance. It is only natural that I retained nothing and had no problem accepting conceptual ambiguity from the speakers. Even worse, I developed a routine as a listener that later plagued my own public speaking.

I created a cycle of confusion and ambiguity in communication. As I began to speak to audiences, I spoke with the same level of ambiguity (at times more) that I had previously accepted as the norm from other speakers. Unfortunately, I began training others to accept a lack of conceptual clarity by not requiring myself to speak with the clarity that others needed and deserved.

So what can you as a public speaker do to clarify your message? How can you speak with clarity to influence change in others? Take a look below.

10 Ways to Clarify Your Message as a Public Speaker

1) Clarify To Whom You Are Speaking

If you don’t know your audience, they will at best inadvertently detach themselves from your message. At worst, they will intentionally “check-out” emotionally, psychologically and mentally from your message.

Is this really what we want as speakers? Do we really think that we will have any impact if we don’t internalize a profound knowledge of those to whom we communicate?

2) Clarify the Precise Message You Want Everyone to Hear

Clarity sounds simple, but most leaders struggle to speak with simplicity.

Think to the future for a minute. Imagine your audience walking out of the room. They have listened to you. They desire to make a change. They desire to take action on your words.

What did you say that motivated them? What was the core message they heard?

They certainly heard hundreds of words. They may have taken notes. They noticed your gestures. But can they articulate in 1-2 sentences the message they heard? Was this message something you repeated two, three, or four times? If so, what was it?!  It is vital to clarify your message!

Take a minute (or more than a minute) and clarify your message. What primary message do you want your audience to take away?

You must take the time to clarify your message in your mind if you have any hope of your audience hearing that central message.

  • Clarify your message in your mind.
  • Clarify your message on paper.
  • Clarify your message in your presentation software, slides, handouts, etc.
  • Clarify your message to an extreme, and then relate everything else to your unifying point or message.
You must take the time to clarify your message in your mind first. Click To Tweet

3) Clarify the Action You Want People to Take

The key message you communicate will create little impact if it isn’t fleshed out in the life of the listener.

Give examples.

  • Use words that relate your message to potential audience action steps.
  • Paint a picture of your message in the day-to-day life of your audience.
  • Bring your message to life in their lives.

Clarify for yourself and for your audience what success will look like if they move your message into their life.

4) Clarify Why You Plan to Cover Your Given Topic

You could make a strong argument that the “why” must precede all else. If you and others don’t know why you speak on a given topic, motivation for change and action will decrease.

Help your audience to see the negative impact on their life if they neglect to apply your message. Captivate them with how application of the message will impact their business, career, family, marriage, or community.

5) Clarify Your Biases and Preferences

These may cause you to stumble. In your mind, these are obvious. Unless you identify these ideas, thoughts, or biases, they will generate confusion. They are always clearer to the speaker’s mind than the listener.

We all have blind spots about what we know the most about. That’s convicting.

You likely will need to get outside input to identify these areas. In our mind, they are clear as day. To our audience, they are unclear, questionable, or outright mistaken.

6) Clarify What You Will Not Say

Most of the time we hyper focus on what we will say. We want to “get it right.” We want to say those perfect words that will invigorate our audience.

But what about the words we will not say? You may have never thought of this step. No problem.

Effective speech eliminates distractions from the core message. Ask yourself what stories or rabbit trails you tend to discuss. Do any of these distract from your core message?

Perhaps just as effective, ask a colleague, close friend, or family member where you tend to lose focus when speaking. Ask one of these people to listen to your speech in advance and identify 2-3 things that provide neutral benefit or weren’t clearly related to your primary message. Trust me. Those closest to you can identify the distractions more effectively than you can.

By doing this exercise it will allow you to clarify your message and make that message loud and clear without the distracting rabbit trails.

Beware of the temptation to trust your intuition. As a speaker, nearly all the information you’ve considered clearly relates to the main topic. You can’t hear your unclear messages nearly as well as your audience can. This is why having someone else read or listen to your message first can help avoid being unclear.

When you and those around you clarify what you will NOT say, you give yourself freedom to set those things aside. You block out those potential points that might confuse your audience. You clarify not only what matters, but you also eradicate what distracts from the important message. This is a vital step when you are trying to clarify your message.

7) Clarify What You Will Repeat

Clarification always involves repetition and repetition nearly always yields clarification.

Clarify your message. Repeat the core message. Say it again in a different way. Then, circle the wagon back to the core message.

Anything that bears significance always merits repetition. Click To Tweet

But how do you integrate repetition without coming across as redundant? Great question.

After you repeat your core message, seek out ways to repeat the meaning, to illustrate the message in real life, and to further support your central message. You can do this with quotes, statistics, or other evidence. These things will serve to support, endorse, bolster, or otherwise clarify your message in the hearts and minds of the listeners.

Clarification always involves repetition and repetition nearly always yields clarification. Click To Tweet

8) Clarify The Illustrations that Will Support Your Main Point (and how you’ll communicate the illustrations)

The illustrations you use should bring the main message to life, connect with the heart of the listener, or give people something to help remember your speech. Do your illustrations and metaphors do that?

Illustrations put flesh on the ideas you communicate. Choose them wisely. 

All too often I’ve heard public speakers communicate multiple illustrations in a row. Many times they didn’t even sound connected to one another. Using illustrations in this way distracts the listener from your core message. It leaves them thinking about a distantly related illustration rather than what you were trying to communicate.

Illustrations put flesh on the ideas you communicate. Choose them wisely. Click To Tweet

Once you decide on your illustration, practice the way in which you will communicate it. We often share illustrations that resonate with us as speakers. Make sure that you take the time to plan how you will communicate the illustration and use gestures so that it resonates with the audience as well.

The best illustrations tend to be obvious and self-explanatory. But exercise caution sharing an illustration without some type of explanation. If you don’t explain it, you leave the door open to confusion and miscommunication rather than clarity.

9) Clarify How You’ll Follow-Up

What steps will you take to reinforce your message? I don’t hear many unforgettable messages. You likely don’t either.

If the average speech is not unforgettable, I’d say it’s unwise if you don’t design follow-up material to reinforce it. But even if you deliver a memorable speech, why wouldn’t you want to make sure it “sticks” and results in life change?

10) Clarify How You’ll Evaluate Your Effectiveness

Design measures that provide a barometer of your persuasive precision and communication clarity.

When you evaluate your communication, you learn from it. You repeat what works. You demonstrate teachability to your audience. You never stop growing.

Evaluation also prioritizes your audience. If you don’t evaluate your communication, either the audience you just spoke to or future audiences will know. People remember the best public speakers not for their consistent mistakes, but their ability to repeat success.

When it comes to communication, we either commit to clarity or confusion. Don’t risk assuming that people receive your communication more clearly than is actually the case. Own it and be intentionally clear.

A speck of confusion in the speaker’s mind leads to a log of misunderstanding for the listener. 

Where’s your speck? What steps must you take to clarify your message content, purpose, audience, or other aspect? We all have work to do.

Be clear. Be clear. Be clear.


This post is part of a series of posts on Public Speaking. Feel free to check out any post in the series.

1) Public Speaking Tips for Leaders
2) 10 Intentional Public Speaking Gestures
3) 10 Ways to Clarify Your Message As a Public Speaker
4) 5 Tips to Clarify Your Intended Result for Your Audience
5) 7 Ways to Begin Your Public Speech With a Bang
6) 7 Steps to Practice Beforehand as a Public Speaker
7) 10 Ways to Use Repetition in Public Speaking
8) 7 Step Process to Plan for Silence in Your Speaking
9) 5 Ways to Match the Message to a Mission
10) 10 Ways to Evaluate Your Public Speaking