Is the Devil Really in the Detail?

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It has been said that, “God is in the detail.” A variation on that saying states, “The Devil is in the detail.” Translation: attention to small things can bring substantial rewards, yet beware the details: mistakes are usually made in the small details of a project.

Whichever way you look at it, details matter. And that holds true in speeches and presentations too.

When speaking before an audience of any size, if you omit details, you are talking exclusively in generalities, abstractions and theory. That’s a great way to lose your audience.

Details – in the form of stories, examples, analogies, analyses, metaphors, etc. – offer a wonderful way to illustrate and substantiate your points. They give your audience a means to access your ideas. Details bring your points to life as they make them compelling and relevant to your audience.

However, details can’t stand alone. Some speakers rely almost exclusively on stories or explain things in such a detailed way that the bigger picture message is lost. Their communication becomes a jumble of interesting information but there is nothing to hang it on. These speakers lose their audience in a different way. The audience is swimming; they don’t know what they are supposed to take from the communication.

The answer: Communicate your overriding message and your points, and use details to illustrate and substantiate them, staying mindful of what you want your audience to leave with. If the details obscure your points and your overall message, they belong to the underworld. If they assist your audience to take in and remember what you intend to communicate, they are divine.

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