Have you ever measured how well your message lands with an audience? In corporate communications, we do this all of the time. Key Message Pull Through is one of the most important metrics we use to evaluate and improve communication effectiveness. Here we explore an easy way you can adapt your communication so that the audience remembers what you have to say.
Leaders often tell me that creating, and delivering, presentations is one of the most challenging aspects of their job. There’s a reason for this (besides the obvious nail-biting fright of getting up in front of an audience). We often dive into creating content before understanding the context of our presentation. Then we stare away at those blank PowerPoint pages and feel lost before we’ve even started.
By now we’ve covered how to set a clear communication objective (Step 1) for our content or presentation. Then we put ourselves in the shoes of our audience (Step 2) to anticipate their communication needs and the related value we offer. Now it’s time to craft compelling messaging based on these insights.
Keep It Simple and Repeat
How do we create memorable messaging? One of the easiest ways to do this is to Keep It Simple and Repeat. Sound easy? The truth is, crafting a clear message can be harder than you think.
Often when we’re asked to deliver a one-hour presentation, we feel terrified and wonder how we’ll ever fill the time? While, in practice, giving a two-minute update is a lot harder. The less time there is, the more clear and concise we need to be with our messaging.
It’s a bit like packing a suitcase when you are limited to a carry-on bag. There is only so much you can bring—and a lot that must be left out. We have to choose carefully what stays in.
We’ve talked before about one of the most common traps presenters make: cramming too much information into their presentations. There are a couple of things that happen when we do this. First, we may unconsciously begin to speak too quickly. We try to squeeze all of our content into a short time frame and, in doing so, we don’t connect with our audience.
If we do manage to connect with our audience while speaking quickly, we risk confusing them in a maze of concepts until they forget the main point we’re trying to convey. One of best ways to improve your communication effectiveness is to stick to your main point, keep it simple and repeat.
Stick to Your Main Point
A main point is the single most important message we want to convey to our audience. And when I say one main point, it’s one main point. Sometimes when I share this tip with business leaders, they tell me: “I’ve got loads of information to share—how am I going to fit this into just one main point”? We’ll get to that in a moment. To be clear: I’m not suggesting you repeat one message over and over throughout an entire presentation.
But often the reason we’re tempted to provide too much information is because of a secret fear that we won’t be perceived as experts if we don’t showcase our full knowledge. Here’s a little hint: it’s actually more impressive when people understand what we’re trying to say, rather than throwing out an overload of messages and hoping for the best!
Stand Out From the Information Tidal Wave
I get it. I love to talk. I could go on for hours about communication. But our audience can only retain so much information. Think of all of the messages we receive in a day. Messages at work or from advertising, online news, email, etc. How much of this really sticks? I’ll bet the messages that do stick with you have these features: they are simple, relevant to you, and are repeated throughout the content.
How do we make sure that your message doesn’t get lost in this information tidal wave? You can try this little test to see if it passes what I call the Understandability Meter.
Here’s how it works. Take one of your upcoming presentations and summarize what it’s about in ten words or less. Then share this message with a colleague, or friend. Better yet, try it on somebody who’s completely outside of your field. Maybe one of your kids, or a niece or nephew. This person should have no idea about the specifics of your presentation.
Now ask them to share back to you what they understand of your message. Is there a match? Awesome! You’ve nailed your main point. Is there a mismatch? Perhaps it’s time to go back and look at how you can refine your main point so that it’s simpler and repeatable.
Tell It Like It Is
If you’re stuck here, there’s an expression in English that works rather well: call a cat a cat. This literally means what it says. Use clear, direct language to describe your point. For example, your key message might be: “Driving synergies and optimizing operational processes”. But wouldn’t it be easier to say: “How can we partner and work better together”? That’s calling a cat a cat.
Check out this Simply Comms video with communications leader, Aimée DuBrule, to learn more.
Now don’t get me wrong. When I talk about crafting a main point this doesn’t mean you’re going to repeat the title of your presentation over and over, for the course of an hour. Think of it more like a tree trunk. Your main point is the tree trunk. Then everything you build out from there to illustrate your main point—whether it’s facts and figures, or case studies and examples—branches out from there. Everything you say is connected to the center.
You’ll want to refer back to the tree trunk regularly so that your audience can follow the connections and clearly understand the most important point. When you keep it simple and repeat, you will improve your communication effectiveness and increase the chances that your audience will come away retaining the information you intend to convey.
What tricks to you use to measure how well your message lands with an audience? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts on this technique and be sure to send in other communication questions to address in future posts.