10 Ways to Use Repetition in Public Speaking

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Repeat what matters. Say it once. Say it again. Then make sure everyone heard you by saying it again.

Sounds simple enough right? It depends. Repetition in public speaking is much more complicated. Or should I say robust?

Clarity in the mind of the speaker doesn’t guarantee clarity in the mind of the listener.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Larry Moyer speak. If you don’t know Larry, you should know that he has a speech impediment and never imagined himself speaking in front of audiences throughout his career. But Larry has done just that. As remarkable as his public speaking career has been as someone with a speech impediment, that’s not the reason I share about him here.

Clarity in the mind of the speaker doesn't guarantee clarity in the mind of the listener. Click To Tweet

Larry utilized repetition more effectively than anyone I’ve ever seen. Did I mention he likes to repeat things? I’m just kidding. Larry knows exactly what he will say and makes sure to repeat it. But Larry even takes it a step further to get his audience to repeat after him. Then he does it again, and again, and again. At first, he frustrated me. I thought, “Why does he force everyone to repeat after him 100 times?” But then I begain to realize that Larry’s method kept the main thing the main thing, reinforced the main thing, and helped everyone present to walk away clearly having memorized the most important parts of his message.

Imagine everyone leaving your next speech, presentation, or sermon clearly having memorized the main points. How much more effective would your speaking be?

Don’t just imagine. Read through these ten tips for how to integrate repetition into your public speaking


10 Ways to Use Repetition in Public Speaking:

1) Clarify your main point(s)

Please, please, please don’t repeat random points. Clarify your main points before even considering repetition in public speaking. Be sure that you know exactly what you will say, which points take priority, and why. You may want to look at another post I did on clarifying the intended result for your audience.

2) Say what matters

After you clarify your main points, it only makes sense that you need to say what matters. If you are like me at all, you are guilty of occassionally going down a rabbit trail rather than staying on topic. Don’t say anything that comes to mind. Say what matters.

3) Illustrate what matters

After you clarify what matters and then say it, find ways to illustrate what matters to you. Your illustrations will frequently stick out in the listeners’ minds more than your actual points. Choose the illustrations wisely and make sure they clarify or further explain your main points. (I like to think of my illustrations as visual repetitions of my main points).

4) Say what matters in different ways

Many effective speakers could shorten their entire speech down to 5-10 minutes. They take a simple idea and expound on it in a multitude of ways. Find new ways to say what matters. Say what matters in different ways. Be creative. But make sure to not veer too far off course.

5) Say your main point with humor

Your main points will bore people to tears without humor. Michael Broome is a well known public speaker since the 70s. One of the things that stands out most clearly in my mind about him is the way he always included humor in every speech.

Humor will allow you to break up multiple iterations of the same point. It helps listeners minds to take a break and thus retain more of your speech. Humor also keeps your audience engaged.

I once had a guy tell me that he hated public speakers and that the only reason he came to hear me was because he knew I would tell a joke. I told him thanks and then realized it wasn’t the biggest compliment at all. Yes that did happen.

6) Get your audience to say your main point

Many speakers assume they alone can speak. I think speakers should spend more time finding ways to involve others. Get your audience inovlved. Have them repeat main points. The more you can involve your audience and get them actively learning, the more they will actively apply your speech.

7) Provide a visual of your main point

Give people some type of visual of your main point. Try to find a way to do this without putting yet another slide into your presentation. What physical object could you bring to the stage with you? What items might be found in the audience? How could you visually demonstrate your main point with your body? I could go on and on about all the ways to provide a visual of your main point(s). Be sure you do so.

8) Return to your main point

When we think about repetition in public speaking, we normally think of the end. Towards the end of your speech, return to your main points. Ensure that everyone heard them and that you clearly articulated them.

Don’t assume everyone stayed with you every minute of your speech. Rather, assume that at least 20-40% of people allowed their minds to wander and have struggled to stay engaged. How will you reel them back in? Do something towards the end to help them re-engage with your speech and walk away feeling like they actually listened to the whole thing.

9) Say what is NOT your main point

This one technique will do more for your audience than most any other. Be clear on what your main point is not. People enjoy hearing contrasts. They remember contrasts. Contrasts give them “hooks” to hang information on inside of their brain.

Saying what your main point is NOT also helps to address concerns the audience might have. When you point out 2-4 things you are NOT saying, you will pretty much always see someone re-engage with your speech. You have probably just addressed a concern they had and couldn’t ask you about.

10) Repeat your main point

If your main point is really your main point, it should go without saying that you should repeat it towards the end. Don’t get so caught up trying to finish your speech that you don’t finish it by circling the wagons back to what matters the most. I like to say, don’t just land the plane…land the plane at the right airport.

The time I have spent emphasizing repetition in this post may surprise you. Maybe it doesn’t. But people work long hours. Audiences are tired. Audiences have many things on their minds. Make your main point explicit and repeat it.

Repetition shouldn’t be gimmicky or “sound” overly repetitive. I am not encouraging you to repeat ad nauseam to the point that your audience hates listening to you. It should illustrate your main point in many ways and keep the audience engaged.

Repetition makes your main point clear. It helps listeners to focus and make changes.

Repeat what matters.


Repetition makes your main point clear. It helps listeners to focus and make changes. Click To Tweet

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