Having the opportunity to coach executives and top sales associates on their communication and presentation skills, I am often surprised how many text-filled PowerPoint slides I review and how many speeches I hear where the audience is stone-eyed and up to their waders in irrelevant information.
So the first step in creating a message that inspires and resonates with people is to start with heart!
You have to create the heart of your presentation that will pump life into everything else you discuss. And if you discover that part of your message doesn’t connect back to the heart then it’s time for an amputation. This technique is similar to what brothers Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, call a core message.
In this blog, I am going to breakdown the five step strategy I use to teach my clients how to discover the heart of their message.
1 – Identify Your End Goal
Before crafting any part of your message, you should start by asking yourself, “When I’m done communicating and the audience leaves, what do I want them to be able to do or think differently?” Honing your goal from the beginning will help you determine what topics to discuss and the feeling you need to create to accomplish your goal. Below is an example of how I did this when I was managing a national sales training department and had the opportunity to work with subject matter experts on the national rollout of a dental product presentation.
2 – Outline All the Points You Want to Discuss on Your Topic
When working with my clients, we start by creating a mind map of all the possible main subjects they want to discuss when communicating their topic. At this stage, there is no need to outline all the details that go with each main subject. Either my client or a subject matter expert can do that later.
3 – Answer These 5 Questions to Unlock the Heart of Your Message
Once you understand all the main subjects you would like to discuss, you have to discover what all the points connect back to. An easy way to think of it is to say, “If the audience doesn’t remember anything else about my topic, they should remember the heart of my message.” This message will become the theme/title of your communication. The five questions I explore and answer with my clients to start formulating the heart of the message are the following:
- What are the words you would use to describe your topic?
- What action words describe the feeling you want your audience to have about your topic?
- How will this topic benefit the audience?
- What specific skills do you want people to learn?
- What analogies or objects could be used to explain what you’re trying to accomplish?
Download this free resource: Crafting the Heart of Your Message Job Aid
4 – Link Words Together In Your List to Create a Simple, Memorable Message
Now it’s time to activate the right side of your brain and get creative! Look at the words you put together in your list and start pairing words together to create a simple, memorable message that connects all your subjects together. Remember: the heart of your message tells me in the simplest way what your message is fundamentally about.
If the CEO of your company came up to you and asked, “What are your presenting today?” you should be able to give a 10 second answer – which is the description of your core message! It should evoke an emotion and make people say, “Wow, tell me more about that.” My caution during this brainstorming stage is to avoid self-editing your responses. Just go with all the ideas that come to mind and write them down because they may lead to another idea that works perfectly!
5 – Choose the Theme that is Simple & Memorable
Your last step is to pick the heart of your message that resonates the most with the specific audience you are communicating to. All of the ideas you listed could technically work; however, consider the feeling you’re trying to create, the visual images you can incorporated based off of the message you select, and in the words of Taylor Swift, “Never…Ever…Ever” forget the purpose of why you are communicating. Keeping these three characteristics in mind will guide you to picking a strong message that resonates with your audience!
And let me close with one final piece of advice: consistently find opportunities to weave the core message throughout your entire presentation. Implementing this strategy will allow you to deliver a simple, memorable message that resonates with your audience. Because remember…when you say a lot of everything, you say a lot of nothing!
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