Clear and Concise Statements

January 03, 2018 | Natalie Frei | Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences |


Rating: 4.7 out of 5

tinuNo one likes listening to the verbose babble of overly loquacious speakers (and yes, this type of speaker tends to be male). Making it short is an art that requires a lot of work. The formula “reduce to the max” might be oversimplified but it is essentially true. There are five steps to arrive at a short, tight but accurate statement.

By Tinu Niederhauser
Translated from German by Natalie Frei


Step 1: Focus your intentions

To inform about, legitimize or show something are not strong enough intentions to form a good statement. You need to sharpen up your intentions for the audience: to convince, persuade or excite make much higher goals. And they force you to bring yourself into play: “I am convinced that we will achieve this Herculean task in two years…” sounds much more impressive than “To our organization, it is vital to set a time frame of two years for this task”. The messenger is the message, goes the saying. You need to embody the intention and the message and try to put the subject as close to your personal self as possible.



Step 2: Take position with the first sentence

Speaking is like flying; take-off and landing are crucial. Therefore, the first sentence is decisive to whether your audience will pay attention or not. Reveal your position and intention in this first step, even if nothing is reasoned or discussed yet. The statement is supposed to spark a discussion after all. It cannot and should not explain everything exhaustively. “SDC has decided to immediately cut all emergency aid to the war zone”. This is a much stronger entrance than “Switzerland’s humanitarian commitment in war zones is dangerous. Therefore, and to guarantee the security of our employees, we have decided to terminate emergency aid to the crisis zone.” Less is more.


Step 3: Give an example

Concrete, palpable, practical! Erase all verbiage and meaningless phrasing. Eliminate foreign words and replace them with a concrete example. Or a very short anecdote you have experienced yourself. This lends tangibility to what is said and makes it much easier for the audience to understand.



Step 4: Use an analogy

Images have a huge advantage over abstract terminology: they address both the cognitive mind and the intuitive gut and therefore cling to the memory much longer. But in order to do the desired job, images need to be picked carefully; they need to be precise and fitting to the context.


Analogies spark attention, but they need to fit the context (Credit: Bernd Riegert / DW)

Analogies spark attention, but they need to fit the context (Credit: Bernd Riegert / DW)


There is an easy and effective technique to finding Images:

1. Form objective argument

What is the key message you would like to convey with the image?

Example: An alternative-left police director is a miscast for this function.

2. Distill general statement

Find the essential condition of your message

Example: Something that is out of place


3. Trigger sentence

Repeat your general statement as a trigger sentence out loud.

“This is exactly as if…” and give free rein to your associations. Ideas, images, names – dare to exaggerate at this point!


4. Note down your ideas

Examples: Like a bull in a china shop, …Like boots in the fridge, …Like a fried egg in a purse, …Like a vegan in a butcher shop, …Like a logger in at the goldsmiths’, …Like a conman at the cashier’s desk, …


5. Check validity

Sometimes the logic of an image is faulty or doesn’t quite get to the core of the matter. That means you were not precise enough in step one and two, so go back and repeat – and be patient!



Be precise and clear in your final message. (Credit: Pexels)

Be precise and clear in your final message. (Credit: Pexels)


Step 5: Close with a clear message

The end, the landing, is the most important part of your statement. Now you get to the punchline. You draw your conclusion and place or repeat your key message. Whatever you hear last will stick with the audience’s memory. Dare to put things in a nutshell. Great, if your statement sparks opposition; this gives you the opportunity to clarify particular points. Opposition is a good sign because you recognize that your audience has caught fire, that your messages were heard. Or there might be applause instead of opposition – even better, it means you got to the point, straightforward. Accept and appreciate applause, you have earned it!


Tinu Niederhauser is a communication and media coach (transfer training & coaching GmbH, Lenzburg).


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