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Is Your Message “Clear as Mud”?

by | Sep 16, 2021 | 0 comments

My high school Chemistry teacher didn’t make it easy to pass her tests. Every six weeks, she would introduce a complex scientific topic, explain it, and then ask, “Is this clear as mud?” The answer was always “yes”.

“Clear as mud” means no one can see through or understand what you just said. As a presenter, don’t make your message “clear as mud.” Be transparent, so your audience can quickly see where you’re going and follow along.

To avoid a “clear as mud” or confusing message, follow my five-step “Clear, Concise Message Model”:

STEP 1 – Do the “30 Seconds Test”

STEP 2 – Drop Breadcrumbs

STEP 3 – Follow the “10 to 1 Rule of Thumb”

STEP 4 – Make “3” Your Magic Mantra

STEP 5 – Offer Only One Next Step


Step 1: Do the “30 Seconds Test”

Before you prepare your presentation, run your ideas through a clarity test I call the “30 Seconds Test”. If you can’t clearly state your main points in 30 seconds, you are planning to dump too much information on your audience. Make sure you can quickly zero in on a clear message that’s not weighed down with too many details.

Step 2: Drop Breadcrumbs

During your introduction, make it easy for your listeners to keep up with you. Drop verbal “breadcrumbs,” so your audience doesn’t get lost. If you are making three points, your verbal breadcrumbs could sound like this: “First” you’ll get …, “next” you’ll pick up …, and “finally” you’ll walk away with …. Let them know what to expect so they can follow the trail you laid out for them.

Step 3: “10 to 1 Rule of Thumb”

If you have a lot of interesting information to share, avoid the temptation to give them all you’ve got. Present only three to five key points, so you don’t overload your audience with too many details. Follow the “10 to 1 Rule of Thumb”. For every 10 minutes you talk, only discuss one major point. That means, you should only cover four key points in a 45-minute presentation.

Step 4: “Three” is a Magical Number

When organizing your presentation, make “three” your magic mantra. When you limit your topic to three main points you make your message clearer, more memorable, and easier to understand. If you really want to cover nine themes, just group them into three distinct sections (with three points in each one).

Step 5: Only One Next Step

To avoid confusing your listeners, be clear and specific about what you want them to do. Only ask them to take one next step after your presentation. Don’t give them two or more options (such as, “you can go to my website or my Facebook page”). If you make them choose, they won’t. Remember, a confused mind gets stuck in neutral and won’t take any action.

To be clear and concise, don’t muddy up your message with confusion and too many details. Follow my five-step “Clear, Concise Message Model” and your audience will stick to your message like glue.

Do you have more “clear and concise” tips? Share your suggestions in the comments.

For more tips on how to give clear, concise, and engaging presentations, check out my e-book for business presenters: https://mailchi.mp/betterspeakingskills/uu56ajtdmt


Rosalyn Porter

Rosalyn Porter

Rosalyn Gist Porter, MBA, founded Better Speaking Skills after more than 20 years in corporate communications as a manager, writer, and editor, for major corporations such as Lockheed Martin. Today, she helps coaches, business owners, executives, salespeople, sales teams, and other professionals increase sales, confidence, and influence with powerful public speaking and presentation skills! Rosalyn is Certified World Class Speaking Coach and a proud member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando.

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