This post was written by Hannah Morris, Director of Assessment & Advancement at The Latimer Group.
Do you ever find yourself rambling in the middle of a presentation? Or do you find yourself planning to include key points… and then forgetting them in the moment? These are common problems, and there are ways to avoid them.
When we are building our messages – especially those that we are delivering verbally – we need to scaffold our key points with a clear structure. This not only helps the audience follow along and visualize how points fit together, but it makes it possible for us to get to the point, stay on track, and remember the critical details.
The most effective structure is a very simple one. It consists of three main parts – open, content, close – and it follows a curve that starts at a high level, then dives into detail, and returns to the high level. If you have participated in one of our workshops, this will sound familiar.
But there is another way to look at your message plan. Look at it like a journey. You have a destination in mind (the goal of your message) and one or more co-passengers (the audience) for whom you will tailor the itinerary (the sequence of key points).
To prepare the journey, follow these three steps:
Invite your audience to join you on the trip and describe to them where you will be going. This is critical. You cannot simply shove them in the car with blindfolds on and no idea of the intended destination. That is no way to persuade and inspire.
Consider where they are starting from. What is their familiarity with the topic? Do they already have firm opinions or reservations? If so, you had better be thinking about how to address them appropriately.
Plan a route that will meet their needs, interests, expectations, and goals. Identify the mile markers (key points) that are going to speak to your audience and connect explicitly to what they care about and how they make their decisions.
Planning your message in this way will accomplish two things. First, it will shift your mindset from “What do I need to say?” to “What does my audience need to hear?” Moving from an egocentric mindset to an audience-focused mindset enables both connection and persuasion. Second, it will allow you to focus on your goal and your key points and liberate you from having to remember every single detail or sentence or word. You will realize that, each time you take the journey, how you get from one point to the next will vary slightly – you will phrase something differently or you may include an alternate example – but as long as you hit those essential mile markers in an effective way, you will ultimately achieve your goal.
Once you have planned your journey, you can create a streamlined outline and practice out loud. With each different run-through, your phrasing may change. With more and more repetition, you can hone your key points to their most succinct and memorable form. Building muscle memory with these key statements creates fluidity and builds confidence.
But there are other memory techniques to leverage, which we will discuss in Part 2. More to follow…
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