If you want to change something (and don’t you?) then you simply must be concise. If you really want to get people to change their mind or take action then you’ll need to make your message memorable. Complex messages don’t drive change. Complexity can be right for some situations but so many of the business messages we hear and see are much more complicated than needed. So, we don’t remember them.
Most business communication is intended to persuade and that means you must create a message that people can remember so they can repeat your central idea. You won’t be successful with more words or slides than is needed. It might be a one-on-one conversation, a sales meeting, a sales pitch, a project update presentation or a big town hall speech – whatever it may be, work your editing muscle to make your message short and memorable. Too much talk loses people and too much complexity, especially too soon, confuses people. It’s not that people are stupid — they’re busy! Information overload is very real. We’re sent messages from every direction. Everywhere our eyes land, we can see text or visual message. Our wonderful brains make a determination about every one of those messages – and immediately. We silently ask: Is it about something that I care about? Does this matter to me? If we answer “no ” then we tune out. We may be very polite about it but that’s what we do. We may do other work during the webinar or answer emails during the presentation because we don’t see the point of paying attention.
Here are 4 ways to make a message concise and memorable:
- Create a Relevant Message. Drive that relevance right away and throughout your message. That means you must understand your audience. If your audience doesn’t see any relationship between your message and what they care about, they won’t listen and they won’t do anything differently. Do your homework, get to know them – what they like, how they think, what they’re proud of, what they’re worried about. Ask questions of audience members before you speak so you can craft a relevant message.
- Put your Point Upfront. Suspense is for the movies not for business messages. As a client said to me years ago, “Don’t make me wait to open the present.” Don’t waste time giving lots of background just jump in to your point. If you start by clarifying why your message matters to them, they will want to know why and how and so what?
- Edit, Edit, Edit. Discipline yourself to say it with less words and syllables. Fancy messages that prove how hard you worked and how much you know about your topic only benefit your ego. “But I want them to know this” is a comment I’ve heard many times. The only thing audiences really want to know is how what they care about will benefit from what you have to say. Work to keep sentences short and succinct. Make your key message so short that it’s memorable and it is repeatable.
- Use Pictures. Those beautiful brains of ours think in images. If you forget your keys, do you see an image of them on the kitchen counter or do you see text explaining they’re there. Yep, you see the image. Images capture our imagination and immediately resonate with us. Create pictures in the mind of the listeners, relate them to your message and what change you want to create. Images are the key to making a message memorable.
I’m interested to hear how you apply these ideas and what others you suggest.