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Speechwriting tip: Don’t make assumptions

One of the most common mistakes public speakers make happens more times than I can count.

Speakers make assumptions.

A speaker assumes everyone in the audience is familiar with a particular news item, movie, song, play, sports hero, sports team — fill in the blank — and makes a very specific reference in the speech (without bothering to provide context for the poor folks who have no idea what the speaker is talking about).

When you’re out of the loop, how do you feel?

Cheated, right?

Speakers sensing confusion may catch their faux pas and awkwardly backtrack to explain.

But they pay a price.

They lose their momentum – and their connection – as they try to dig out the wedge they just put between themselves and the uninformed.

Choose your references wisely and tell those stories with care.

Never assume that every single person in your audience is familiar with a specific reference you’d like to make.

Can you tell those stories in a way that provides context and meaning for everyone?

You can – and indeed, you must.