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A simple message: The key to making an impact in public speaking

November 12, 2012
Carthago delenda est!

Cato the Elder knew about having a simple message.

Have you ever sat through a speech and were left wondering why you bothered? Perhaps a presentation at work where you’re left wondering what to do next? One of those speeches that fails to make an impact, a speech with no clear purpose, a speech without a clear message?

Throughout history, the best speakers and the greatest orators have been those whose speeches have a simple message. A Roman senator, Cato the elder, one of my favourites, was famed for ending every speech with the simple words: Carthago delenda est (Carthage must be destroyed). In fact, Cato repeated his message to the point of absurdity, and came in for his fair share of mockery during his lifetime. But it was Cato who got the last (posthumous) laugh as Carthage was eventually destroyed, after his death, in a war he started.

 Successful salespeople of every stripe are much the same: the stallholders of my local market in Catford, South London, demand my attention by relating the price of their wares and inducing me to buy them. Not once has a stallholder provided a comprehensive list of  the nutritional and gastronomic benefits of consuming aubergines. There’s no way that a listener could hear either Cato, or the Catford stallholder and miss their central message.

So next time you give a speech, do yourself a favour. Give your audience a simple message and give your speech the impact it deserves.


President 2012-13


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