Friday, December 02, 2011

Are you a TMI speaker?

Here's a speaking characteristic I suspect you don't want to demonstrate. TMI. Too Much Information. It might appear to be a good problem to have, especially if you are being paid to deliver your knowledge. However, it is not at all helpful to your audience to overwhelm them with facts and figures that they have little time to absorb, let alone use. I see the TMI phenomenon often at events all around the world. Some speakers fear that they are not getting enough information across, so pack their speeches with detailed evidence to back up their messages (yes, they deliver a whole bunch of different messages too). 

The symptoms of TMI can be observed in the audience, by watching people getting increasingly frustrated, and saying to each other "Did you get that?" There are several possible causes. Firstly, the speaker may be rushing through their material in order to finish on time. That's never going to work, since the audience will feel cheated. Secondly, there may be way too much information on the slides, accompanied by the speaker saying "You probably can't see the detail on this slide, so I will talk you through it". (Oh dear).

In most cases, however, it's simply a case of trying to deliver too many messages in one speech. Here's my rule of thumb; one speech, one message. That's it. It's simple, clear and prevents any confusion. The thing is, a week or two later, people in your audience will remember just the one thing that made the greatest impression on them.

So the cure for TMI is obvious and simple. Focus on one message only, and provide plenty of time for your audience to understand it.