Monday Morning Quick Tip: Make A Plan


“Okay then, I’ll just follow you.”

I hate hearing those words. I am a terrible person to head-up a convoy. I have a really good sense of direction, but I also have a lead foot. Other drivers with lesser directional prowess have to keep up, or they eat my dust and wind up totally lost. I have waited hours for people who started following me, and were unable to keep up.

I’ve seen speakers fall into the same trap. They forge ahead, sometimes with a keen sense of direction, but a failure to communicate that direction to their audience. Their audience, as a result, winds up lost and bewildered.

You Have to Have a Map

It’s important that you give your audience the details they need to follow where you’re headed. They need a clear, effective roadmap that provides them with the directions they need. That way, everybody arrives at the destination together. The old saw: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and tell ‘em what you told ‘em,” sums up the idea quite effectively. The reason that statement has become such a public speaking cliché is precisely because it is the bog-standard good advice for organizing a roadmap for a speech.

But What About When You Veer Off Target?

Speaking is dynamic. Sometimes digressions happen. Sometimes a new story or illustration will occur to you on-the-fly. And, just like taking a detour in the car, you need to make a plan for how you’re going to get back to your destination. You may have a clear picture in your head, but your audience doesn’t.

So, be sure you communicate your plan to your audience. As you detour down a side path, let them know that you’ll be going off course for a minute, but that you’ll get back to the main track shortly. Set limits on yourself for digressions, and try to plan extra time into your presentation for them. Make your audience aware so that they don’t get confused. That way, you’ll keep them following along, engaged, and on the right track.

What do you do to get yourself back on track after a digression? Leave your best tips in the comments!