Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Designing the content of your message, part of Communication Foundations (2013).
- Steve Jobs said, "You have to work hard "to get your thinking clean to make it simple. "But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, "you can move mountains." Three keywords in the middle of that quote make it simple. Point to the first of four guidelines to design your message for maximum impact. First, make it simple. Jobs is a great role model for the power of simplicity. Countless examples. Before Apple introduced the iPod, people got confused about so-called MP3 players. Jobs said, "It's a thousand songs in your pocket," and everyone instantly understood.
In his legendary 2005 commencement address at Standford University, he distilled his abundant life experience into three stories and four words, "Stay hungry, stay foolish." That's making complex simple. That's what we want to do, too. So, when preparing your message remember, complex confuses, but simple sticks. No matter how complex your underlying analysis and reasoning, make your message simple. If your listeners get lost, you lose. The iPod was more complex than any other MP3 player on the market, but the message was simpler and it sold.
Make it simple applies especially to your public objective. Don't hide your public objective for a dramatic reveal later on. As journalists say, "Don't bury the lead." For instance, if life were discovered on Mars today, tonight on the news what they wouldn't do is introduce the story with talk about telescopes and the lonely lives of scientists. Then 10 minutes later, "Oh also, "the red planet has little green men." No, the story would start with the most important point, there's life on Mars. But what matters most upfront and be able to state your public objective in one clean, clear simple sentence.
Is your objective is to inform? Get right to the point. I want to share important results from our analysis that you need to know. Is it to persuade? Get to the point. We recommend you go forward with this project. For your next meeting, what's the headline for your public objective? What's your life on Mars? Second guideline, provide a roadmap. Preview the main points that drive your objective in one clear sentence. You know where you're going, but they don't unless you tell them. Don't make them guess.
They might guess wrong. Don't let them get lost, confused, or frustrated trying to figure it out. Tell them where you're going. In the first example about sharing analysis results, you can say next, "We'll focus on "the two most relevant areas: schedule implications "and effects on quality." And here's a roadmap for the second example about seeking project approval. In our presentation, we'll share three areas of analysis that drive our recommendation and then welcome any feedback or questions. Provide a roadmap. Now there's an old saying that captures the third guideline, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
At first it sounds funny, but then when you break it down it makes sense. It's a great guideline to help you avoid complexitis or getting pulled off course by other distractions. Now sure, sometimes you'll need to adapt to your situation but remember your public objective and remember your purpose. What do you want your listeners to think, feel, and do? If you need to adapt, adapt toward you think feel do priorities not away from them. Don't let stress or diversions make you forget what you most want to achieve.
Plan for tough questions, plan for interruptions, anticipate challenges, and practice ways to respond to keep the main thing the main thing. Fourth guideline, start strong, finish strong. Studies show that people tend to remember information presented at the beginning and the end more than the rest. Beginnings and endings matter disproportionately. Lets treat them that way and gain the extra impact that comes with first and last impressions. If small talk first is customary in your situation, that's fine. But don't ramble, mumble, or wander mentally too far from your purpose.
And when it is time to start, start strong. Get to the point and make it simple and memorable. And when it's time to end, be clear, concise, and reinforce the impression you want them to remember. Don't be ambiguous or trail off indecisively as you finish. In gymnastics, they deduct points if the athlete stumbles around at the end. Same thing goes in business communication. Stick the landing, speak loud and clear until the end and when you're done, be done. So, for your next meeting or presentation, work with a trusted friend or colleague and sharpen how you'll apply each of the four guidelines.
One, make it simple. Clarify your core message, make it crisp and concise. Two, provide a roadmap. Give your listeners a brief preview of where you're going. Three, keep the main thing the main thing. Anticipate likely challenges and prepare how to respond. And four, start strong, finish strong. Practice how you'll begin and end to make your first and last impressions engaging and confident. That's how you do it. That's how to design the content of your message for maximum impact. Steve Jobs also said, "Design is not just "what it looks like and feels like.
"Design is how it works." Use the four guidelines to structure your content and make your message work.
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- Managing the intent-impact gap
- Designing the content of your message
- Improving vocal delivery
- Adjusting your body language
- Being politically savvy
- Listening to what's said, what's unsaid, and how it's said
- Increasing empathy and trust
- Overcoming anxiety<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.