Here's a procedure that I almost always find useful for improving almost any kind of written composition — a speech, an essay, an op-ed or a story. As a first pass, try cutting the first 10 percent (the "throat clearing") then moving the last 30 percent (the payoff) to the beginning of the talk (don't bury your lede!). About 90 percent of the time when someone gives me a paper for review, I find that it can be improved through this algorithm.
Weirdly, I almost always need someone else to point this out to me. I circulated a draft paper for comment this week, and it took Grad to remind me that I'd buried my lede and spent too much time throat-clearing. It turned out that he was completely right, but I didn't see it until it was pointed out to me.
Just a bit of random foo for the day.