Precise Statements

How to make people listen to you

May you say a few words?

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

This phrase often triggers an immediate panic attack. How do I start? What should I say? How can I be sure not to bore people? How can I make a great statement without talking too long? The problems with communication become omnipresent when we look into our online and offline culture of meetings, events and presentations. Most of them are boring, predictable and the first option people try to find is how to leave the situation as quickly as possible.

How can you do better?


The main issue is that we learn to accept that communication cannot be precise. People waffle and keep talking for a long time without saying anything relevant, and we are taught to accept this behaviour. When people present, it is commonly known that some presenters are “all over the place”, but as long as it does not get too dull, we accept the behaviour as if there is no way to change it. Teaching people to accept non-precise communication makes us try to blend in. We adopt wrong behaviour; we adapt to other people’s approaches. Before we even actively realised it, we became part of the waffling group of “very nice but a bit all over the place”. Thank you, no thank you. We need to change our communication style to make people listen to us.

Better communication

As soon as you start to talk, you must be aware that people’s attention span is shorter than it was in the past. Different numbers are around about how many seconds you have. We can agree: your statements must be brief and precise.

Choose from some of the well-working techniques to open your statements as it is vital to keep people’s attention from the beginning (hint: never open with “Hello, my name is…”).

You may open your statement with a keyword. Important: use a pause after you mention the keyword. Please refrain from using over-used buzzwords with no meaning or content connected to them. Another option is to open your statement with a question. Still, it is essential that your question either has a surprising answer or raises an interesting point. Questions like “Who of your wants to make more money?” are pointless as anyone in the room will give you the same answer. Choose your questions wisely. Another option is to use statistics to open your statement. It is crucial that you know the valid and reliable source of the statistics you quote and that the outcome is surprising to the listeners. These options will raise the people’s attention from the beginning of your statement.

If you prefer to aim more at the emotions of your listeners rather than the factual side of your statement, you can use the technique of storytelling. First, tell your story with as many details as you can. Only use stories that you know from your experience. Do not use other people’s stories or invent stories. Listeners will quickly realise when a story is not true. Second, the story must have a point. It needs to be relevant to your listeners. Sometimes you have a story that you love to tell. Still, that is not an appropriate criterion to tell it to others. It is never about you but always about your audience. Choose stories with a point that has high relevance for your target audience. Third, always mention an example, often introduced by the words “…and that means for you…”. This step helps the audience to transfer your idea to their real-world practice.

Important: storytelling is not a replacement for lack of expertise or filling time when you have no idea what you are talking about. Storytelling is a skill that is of crucial importance to appeal to an audience’s emotion while serving their needs with high-value concepts. Never follow a “form over function” approach, as you will not succeed sustainably with any audience. Experience and expertise always win against anyone who pretends to know something they do not.

The role of leadership

Practising a new style or approach to communication might feel uncomfortable initially. This aspect makes it even more critical that leaders go first to deliver a more efficient, more effective, and precise communication approach. Only when leaders agree that they do not delegate the newly acquired skill to others but live a “walk the talk” and “practice what you preach” approach. Leaders go first. The communication in your organisation will improve quickly, both internally and externally, to clients, vendors, and partners.

More about precise communication in
this week’s podcast: click here to listen and learn.

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Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt is in business since 1998. Helping managers to become better leaders by mastering the concept of Sustainable Leadership. Based in Spain & London.