Great Messaging is Edgy

Great messaging is edgy. It’s easier to be safe—like when you’re sailing.

For any of you who have ever been on a catamaran, it’s safer to have both hulls of the sailboat in the water. But to win, you have to go up on one hull—and the professional sailors even hang off the edge during a race.

When creating great messaging, you have to cut through the waves – through the jargon, through the abstractions – in order to connect.

I recently helped an executive prepare a mainstage presentation to five thousand people in Vegas. When we started, his content was loaded with buzzwords and statistics so it read fairly flat and forgettable. Is your next presentation the same way?

I challenged this executive to be provocative and more memorable. So, how do you do that?

  • Include stories. Share a personal story that relates to your content. This might feel risky, but everybody loves a good story. Stories are emotional and have a strong impact on memory. They also help our audience visualize our point of view.
  • Come up with an analogy. Analogies help us convey a complex point quickly. Ask yourself, “Can I relate this to something else?” And don’t overcomplicate it. Keep it simple so the audience can have a quick ah-ha!
  • Be plain-spoken. This means using concrete, conversational words to help people ‘get it’. Writers at The Skimm do this well.

Playing it safe is exactly what your audience expects you to do. Instead, surprise them with something unexpected. Or, shift gears and make them laugh. Anything that deviates from the current flow will help grab your audiences’ attention and keep them tuned in.

So, in your next town hall, finals pitch, QBR or board meeting, challenge yourself not to be predictable. Take down barriers, be vulnerable and get up on that edge. Your audiences will thank you.

The Telephone Game

The telephone game is fun, especially as a kid or with kids. It’s the one where everyone sits in a circle and one person would pick a word or phrase then “pass it on” by whispering it to someone next to them. The fun was seeing how much the message changed … Continue reading

The Vampire Effect: Do Your Messages Suck or Stick?

Have you ever seen a cool ad, but can’t recall what it’s actually for? You’re experiencing the Vampire Effect, a term coined after a study conducted by MediaAnalyzer Software & Research, which results concluded that attention-grabbing content—from sexy images to celebrity endorsements—was sucking attention away from what the ad was actually trying … Continue reading

Analogize It!

It’s one of the most common communications white lies we tell ourselves: “If I say the words, people will get it.” Even when your audience is well-versed in your subject matter, it’s not always true. The truth is, the most accurate data points and thoughtful analysis in the world won’t resonate … Continue reading

The Big Short

A lot of times people ask, “What are the essential components of a speech?” They’re looking for the silver-bullet, the ideal length of time spent, the appropriate level of seriousness, how much humor, how many data points to include, etc. Often, we look to TED talks, popular speeches and commencement … Continue reading

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

I’ve heard over 100 presentations on philanthropy and giving. I spend a lot of time recording people speaking on video. Luckily, many of us are motivated to give back, and we want to urge others to do the same. This is not a complaint – instead, there is a great … Continue reading

Airline-inspired Analogies

We talk a lot about building SHARPs into messages: Stories, Humor, Analogies, References (Quotes), and Pictures/Visuals. One of the first reactions to this is something like, “Yeah, I love when people use them, but I’m not very good at it. I’m just not creative enough.” We put far too much … Continue reading

Hook your audience

“I’m here today to talk to you about standardization.” That’s the way a Silicon Valley engineer in our training program COULD have started his presentation about the need to standardize. Instead, he took a different route. “As I was doing some research for this presentation, I read that the city … Continue reading