Connecting with the audience

4 Speaking Essentials to Inform an Audience: Don’t be a ‘Foreign Policeman’ (Part 1 of 4)

Ian Griffin shares great advice on writing and giving speeches on his blog, as well as LinkedIn. Having enjoyed his work for many years, I invited him to share some of his wisdom with you. The following four posts provide some great insight into practical ways of informing your audience, without boring them to tears or confusing them further.

If you are delivering a public speech the goal should be to communicate as clearly as possible. In business settings, the more succinctly you communicate information, the better. This might not be true of an after-dinner or humorous speech. A speech can be entertaining even though it contains little or no new information. However, when you are speaking to inform, your audience will appreciate hearing information that is relevant to their concerns delivered in a manner they can absorb.

I believe there are four ways of speaking to inform. These can be classified according to how much information is delivered, and how clear the communication is. More or less information can be delivered in an unclear or clear manner, as represented in this graph that shows four ways of speaking to inform:

4 ways to inform

Let’s start by considering the least useful form of communication, where you deliver little or no information in an unclear manner. A classic example would be a tourist in France, who does not speak the language, hearing a command from a Foreign Policeman. The amount of information is minimal, but failure to understand could be fatal.

Acronyms convey information in an abbreviated form. But if members of the audience do not understand them, they are left in the dark. As brief as they are, always spell them out.

Few speakers would risk going in front an audience with little to say and no ability to be understood, unless they were totally inebriated. If Dudley Moore were to take to the podium when he was as drunk as he was in the movie Arthur, the result would be a complete disaster. So, please, stay sober when you speak in public!

In my next blog entry I’ll discuss the second form of speaking to inform that I call “Road Signs”. Click here to read it.

A veteran speechwriter and executive communications specialist, Ian Griffin helps CEOs and senior managers develop strategic messaging and content for presentations to audiences worldwide. He is Past-President of the Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association and an active member of Toastmasters.  Ian has spent more than 20 years working with mainstream Silicon Valley companies such as Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.  His Professionally Speaking blog is found at

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