Tips to make your talking points fly high

Not every assignment calls for a full blown speech. Sometimes the only thing a speaker needs is a set of talking points.

What's the difference? Well, generally the script for a speech is composed of narrative i.e. full sentences, punctuation and even directions to pause. In contrast, talking points most often consist of headings, bulleted text and, in some cases, a backgrounder that contains more detail.

Talking points are a barebones treatment that call on the speaker to fill in the blanks. For that reason, they are most appropriate to speakers who are confident on the podium and who know the subject well.

The responsibility for a good delivery rests heavily on the speaker's shoulders. However, the writer can help assure success by creating talking points that are easy to expand and deliver.

Here are steps you can take to help the speaker you support wing it with panache.

1. Create a structure
Just because talking points are made up of bullets as opposed to sentences, doesn't give you licence to pull together a random list of facts and stats. Both speaker and audience need guideposts to follow. So, create a structure with a clear beginning, middle and end. Set the scene; say's what's important and why; explain what has to happen or change; than wrap things up by repeating what people should remember, or tell them what you want them to think, believe or do.

2. Make it interesting
Don’t limit your input to just the meat and potatoes of the topic or issue. Help the speaker add some spice. Take a look at the background data. Is there an analogy or comparison the speaker could make to help listeners visualize ideas? People can't hold abstract concepts in mind for a long time. So make abstractions concrete by comparing them to real things people can imagine. And never underestimate the power of surprising people or saying something funny to delight them.

3. Bring stats to life
Another challenge for listeners is making sense of numbers. Numbers are not a substitute for ideas. Tell the story first; then provide numbers to illustrate your point. Your message will be even more powerful if you also make the stats relevant to the audience. Often that means giving big numbers a human scale. Most people find it difficult to imagine a billion of anything. So, express the figure in a way that’s easier for your audience to digest. For example, a billion dollars would buy a Cadillac for each of the 16,000 people who live in the town of Riverview, New Brunswick.