Matt is a Corporate Trainer in Japan, helping to transform and evolve the nation's business communication culture across the private sector.
Beginning your Journey to Vocal Clarity
Starting off, let's be clear that this is a beginner's guide to developing your discourse. With that in mind, we are hoping to unjumble your minds and set-straight the mumbo-jumbo of opinions and ideas in your head. Thus, releasing your logical and cohesive speaking potential.
So, if you're already perfecting your presentations or awe-inspiring your managers with poise and eloquence and convincingly negotiating with clients, I would estimate you are well beyond the objectives of this post.
Instead, this article aims to provide you with the foundations and outline for better vocal execution. Hence, we will explain the core methodologies designed to build smoother thought structures that enable concise and accurate delivery.
Simple Steps to Speaking Succinctly
- Use PREP or summaries to help structure and organise your ideas.
- Expand on key points with the necessary information and simple details.
- Where possible, add examples to help illustrate your points in a clear way.
- Introductions help to provide background and clarify your main opinion plus supporting arguments.
- Conclusions help to collate and reaffirm your main arguments.
Structure and Reasoning of Simple Opinions
We say simple, but in reality, it can sometimes be a nightmare to express any kind of clarity or cohesiveness. What you do understand is you're a professional in your field, or you have just identified a thought you need to convey. What you don't understand is how to express it logically and in a concise way.
Let's start with the basic idea that almost any thought, argument or perspective can be summarized into simple phrases or terms. These key concepts or points will be the seeds you need to grow and flourish your blossoming theory into a much more coherent and persuasive declaration.
Taking that concept of simple points and summaries, now we have the basis of your thoughts. It is about structuring and organising this information that will assist you in coming across more logical, precise and succinct.
For any key or main idea that you have, there will always be one or a number of reasons connected to that central opinion. Delve a little deeper into the arguments and in some instances, you should be able to attach evidence, examples or even personal experience to them to help boost their potential, context and impact.
Finally, you need to then briefly introduce the core components of your idea, and then bring it life. This becomes your brief but functional opening statement and your overall conclusion. So, let's examine some frameworks that will help you split all of this essential goodness into workable, bite-sized pieces.
PREP: Our First Framework
The first formula is pretty basic but suitable for a wide variety of communicative situations. Let's look at this simple framework:
- P = point: your key idea or concept
- R = reason: This is the reason or arguments you have supporting your wonderful and radical thoughts.
- E = example/experience/evidence: Based on things that you have researched, witnessed or know. These kinds of imagery or facts can be useful in helping to illustrate your arguments or supporting statements with ease.
- P = point: Once again, your opportunity to highlight your position and summarise any key ideas you need to convey.
Let's try a sample, in theory, using one of my favourite dishes.
- P - Point = Favourite food is fish and chips.
- R1 - Reason 1 = Tastes good
- E1 - N/A
- R2 - Reason 2 = Quick to prepare
- E2 - Example 2 = Takes about 10 mins
- P - Point = That's why I love fish and chips.
If we then try to turn that into an actual statement, it would look something similar to this.
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I really enjoy eating out and ordering fish and chips for the great flavours and short preparation time.
Fish and chips are delicious, and I especially enjoy the delicious batter on the fish. In terms of ordering, when I place my request it usually only takes around 10 minutes to prepare.
So, that is why I enjoy fish and chips as one of my favourite meals.
OK, so this is quite a basic expression but demonstrates the idea in an easy-to-understand framework, is laid out in logical steps based on similar information and tells a clear story. Perhaps one thing you may notice is the lack of an example for reason 1. I omitted this on purpose for two reasons, the first taste is subjective and based on personal preference, second, it is hard to quantify. My main intention here is to demonstrate that not all reasons need further explanation or support, via the use of an example.
PREP isn't the only acronym out there, and it isn't the only method either. Another similar and easy approach is via summarizing people's thoughts into simple phrases or ideas, similar to a typical presentation slide. We will venture further into this framework in the next section.
Second Method: Using Summaries
Perhaps, you're looking for alternatives to the PREP approach; the summary formula may be more appropriate for you. Basically, this approach is as the name suggests, an easy summary of your thoughts, to help you express yourself more coherently and succinctly.
The structure we use in this framework is pretty simple, as it is just a summary of your ideas. Let's demonstrate how this works in principle:
Main idea or concept
- Supporting idea 1 - example 1
- Supporting idea 2 - example 2
- Supporting idea 3 - example 3
Let's put this into practice by thinking about our favourite place to travel. Our summary would look something like this:
- Coffee culture: e.g. cheap and delicious
- International events: e.g. F1, Australian Open
- Convenient: e.g. transportation infrastructure, city structure
The above example is pretty bare and sparse on details, and that's the whole point—getting your brain to build the foundations of your thoughts. Then using these core components to fill in the blanks and detail. Let's attempt to make a full opinion of the summary we composed above.
Melbourne is my favourite place to visit for many reasons. Specifically, they include the coffee culture, range of international events and its broad convenience.
Firstly, the coffee culture born from its European influence is aromatic, refreshingly flavourful and surprisingly cheap. In terms of events, the city has you covered every year with the ultimate racing tournament the Formula 1, plus one of the major Tennis Grand Slams the Australian Open. Finally, the city is convenient to access and travel around, with the layout of the CBD actually quite functional, and a comprehensive network of tram lines linking to all the major destinations.
For these reasons, I believe Melbourne is one of the best places to enjoy as a travel destination.
Useful Terms and Expressions
To help add impact and guide the listener or audience through your idea here are a bunch of suggested terms and expressions to help:
You can begin your opinion or idea with any of these phrases (there are so many others too!):
- In my opinion
- From my perspective
- I think
- I believe
- In my view
- I recommend
- It is clear to me that
Sample: In my opinion, Melbourne is a fantastic place to visit.
Introducing Supporting Arguments
These phrases will help you to add new reasons or ideas to back up your main concept. Here are a few examples:
- In terms of
- In relation to
- In regards to
- Speaking of
Sample: In terms of events, you can experience global sporting championships like the F1. . .
You can also use sequencing markers to similar effect:
- First of all
Sample: First of all, Melbourne's coffee culture has been booming recently. . .
When providing examples, evidence or experience to further clarify or illustrate your reasons:
- For instance
- For example
- As an example
- From my experience
- Such as
- To support this
- To illustrate this
Sample: From my experience, coffee in Melbourne is quite affordable at an average of $3-4 per cup. . .
To wrap up your opinion you can use the following phrases:
- In conclusion
- In summary
- For these reasons
- In closing
- To wrap up
Sample: Overall, that is why I feel Melbourne is such an exciting and fun-filled destination. . .
That's our take on expressing simple and basic opinions. Two easy frameworks we hope will enable you to boost your speaking potential straight away. In our next post, we will explore how to develop and convey more complex and detailed ideas. We will do this by demonstrating how to build a sophisticated and professional argument, based on a painless, logical and articulate structure.
Now, we turn to you the reader, and we would love to hear how PREP or the Summary method has helped you. Alternatively, if you have any other useful frameworks or ideas, we would love to hear about them in the comments section.
© 2019 Matt Ainsworth