Posted by on Jul 31, 2016 in Confidence, Speaking | 22 Comments


Do you remember that line from Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for president, “It’s The Economy, Stupid!”?

Clinton’s Campaign Manager, James Carville, kept repeating that theme to remind everyone working for Clinton to stay focused on the plight of working people. It became their mantra.

That was an exceptional message for the Clinton campaign. It was bold, clear and direct.

James Carville understood one of the basic principles of effective communications:



When you prepare to speak to your audience, do you have a message that is just as clear? Can you summarize your presentation into one short, memorable sentence?

If you can’t, then you are not giving a speech. You are RAMBLING.

Every presentation must have a message. Whether it is called a “point”, a “goal”, or “purpose”, the objective is the same – to leave the audience with a clear direction!

Whenever you are speaking – in a prepared speech, answering a question, or giving an evaluation – you should have a clear, concise message, appropriate for your audience.  Your message is the framework for everything you say.

Dale Carnegie, in his book, The Art of Public Speaking, says, “It (public speaking) is not about you. It’s about the message. Self is secondary to your subject.”

Carnegie is saying, KNOW YOUR MESSAGE.


Before you begin to outline your presentation, write out your message. It should be concise, no more than one sentence – about ten words. At least one of those words should be “you” or “your.”

What one thought do you want your audience to remember after they leave? What response do you want to invite from the audience?

Your message should be F.A.T.  It should ask your audience to FEEL, ACT or THINK about your topic when you are finished. You want the audience to respond to your topic. Your message may target behavior or thought.

Don’t make it hard on yourself.  Your message does not have to be a major life lesson, or a ground-breaking, world-changing pronouncement.  And, please do not try to teach, preach or prophesy.  Your message can simply be an observation, your opinion, or a feeling.

Here are some examples of a F.A.T. message for the topic: “Vacation at the Grand Canyon.”

  • (FEEL) -Seeing the Grand Canyon in person can take your breath away.
  • (ACT) – Take your next vacation at the Grand Canyon.
  • (THINK) – The Grand Canyon is first place that every American should visit.

As you begin to write your speech, as you decide on the purpose of your speech, think about your central message.


Having a clear message is not limited to prepared presentations. Use the same tactic in answering questions, especially hypothetical or hostile questions, or questions when you do not know the answer or all the information.

When asked those potential traps, talk about the message – your principles that you would apply to the situation, or the overall goal of the circumstances.

QUESTION: Would you jump off a cliff if your friends asked you?  ANSWER: I trust my friends; we would never try to harm each other.

Before you answer any question, remember this basic principle of effective communications:  KNOW YOUR MESSAGE.


When your message is well-defined, you will discover how you can communicate it clearly and effectively. You will improve your communication skills. You will be seen as confident leader.

Most importantly, your audience will leave with a clear direction.

As you prepare for any presentation, remember: KNOW YOUR MESSAGE


Fred Haley is a certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker for the John Maxwell Program, and owner of ToastMentor, a communications training firm. He conducts public workshops, and mentors business professionals to improve their presentations. Fred has published several books on public speaking. Follow Fred on Twitter @ToastMentor.  Learn more on his web site, 


  1. Avatar for Fred Haley
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