Repetition has long been heralded in advertising, politics and public speaking as a device which can add emphasis and impact to key thoughts and phrases. But too much repetition in a presentation becomes annoying rather than powerful.
I recently attended a webinar given by a well-known author – whose name you would recognize – and he repeated so much of his presentation I felt I was hearing it all twice. In some cases he repeated phrases three times AND the same words were showing on the slide. His presentations to live audiences follow a similar pattern.
What has happened to this author is that repeating much of what he says has become a crutch for him. It’s become another form of filler words, similar to ‘um’, ‘you know’, ‘like’, et al. Rather than pausing to gather his thoughts and formulate what he is going to say next, this repetition has become a habit to bridge from one thought to the next.
It has become so ingrained, he likely doesn’t even hear himself repeat things two or three times.
For repetition to be effective, it must be intentional. As a speaker you must consciously decide where you can lend more emphasis and importance to a word or phrase by repeating it. You can repeat the word(s) exactly, with a pause before the repetition to give the audience a moment to absorb the impact.
Or, you can explore a rhetorical device, such as anaphora, which is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases. Repetition used in this way not only creates emphasis but also moves the thought/message forward.
Take a look at these two examples to see how powerful repetition can be when used with intention:
1) “To raise a happy, healthy, and hopeful child, it takes a family; it takes teachers; it takes clergy; it takes business people; it takes community leaders; it takes those who protect our health and safety. It takes all of us.”
–Hillary Clinton, 1996 Democratic National Convention address
2) “What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country whether they be white or whether they be black.”
–Robert F. Kennedy, on the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
About the Author:
Kathy Reiffenstein is the founder and president of And…Now Presenting!, a Washington DC-area business communications training firm, which offers a suite of public speaking and presentation skills programs geared to creating confident, persuasive speakers. Visit Kathy’s website at www.andnowpresenting.com to subscribe to her bi-weekly presentation tips or her blog where you’ll find fresh insights on speaking in public that are engaging, sometimes irreverent and always practical.