Originally published with the Forbes Coaches Council, November 2018.
When you speak to an audience — be it a room full of executives, a staff meeting, or a one-on-one phone call with a client — keeping a few key concepts in mind can help you get your message across persuasively and powerfully.
Clarity, for example, ensures that your audience understands exactly what you are saying; brevity ensures that you don’t lose your audience’s attention. Both clarity and brevity are about keeping it short and simple: essential elements in today’s hyper-saturated, data-intensive world.
But short and simple won’t inspire an audience to act. For that, you need context, impact and value — the “why” behind your words.
Context tells your audience the relevance of what you are saying: what makes the topic important to them. Impact ensures that your message stands out and your audience remembers your key points. Value communicates what your audience will get out of your message and why they should pay attention.
Underlying each of these techniques is understanding your audience: what they care about, what pressures they face, what their business situation looks like and what they need. Make sure that you begin any preparation with knowledge-gathering. Ask some questions, use active listening skills and find out basic information about your audience’s business and industry (I’m always amazed at how often people forget to do a simple Google search). Once you have some sense of what your audience is thinking about when they come into the room, offering them the right context, impact and value becomes more obvious.
From there, a few basic steps and questions for each of these elements will quickly amplify the persuasiveness of your message.
What’s the one-minute, high-level, audience-focused summary? This one minute of setting the scene might be the most important minute of your communication. Give your audience the immediate understanding of what you are talking about, why it’s important to them and where it fits into the current situation.
Don’t assume that your audience knows what you are talking about and why they want to hear it. Give the big picture before you delve into details. If your audience doesn’t first understand the why, all those carefully cultivated data points will just be noise.
1. What do you want to accomplish? What is your goal and what do you need the audience to do? How can you align their interests with your goal?
2. Outline your message. Once you make your key points clear to yourself, conveying them with impact will be easier.
3. If you need to create a slide deck, ask yourself what each slide contributes to your overall message. If you don’t know the answer, get rid of the slide. For the slides that remain, make sure that they are concise, simple and easy to absorb. Make sure your audience doesn’t get distracted by reading them.
4. Deliver with confidence and authenticity. Appropriately emphasize and repeat your key points.
What is the audience’s perspective? What matters most to them, and how can you demonstrate that you not only understand their needs but have a solution for them? Cultivate empathy. The ability to put yourself in your audience’s shoes is invaluable.
Clarity. Brevity. Context. Impact. Value. These elements combined can make your communication more audience-focused, powerful, memorable and persuasive. When you make these five elements a habitual part of your preparation, creating more effective communication will take less time, cause less stress and produce better results.
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