THE Key to a Memorable and Impactful Message
To enjoy a long career as a presenter, you have to develop many skills. One of the most vital is to be crystal clear in your message. Without clarity, you lose your audience and your influence.
The Power of the MESS
Most people struggle to uncover their crystal-clear message. And they give up.
A common misconception is that great speeches and stories flow out of you.
Here’s a super-secret insider tip: That almost NEVER happens!
On rare occasions, a message flows out of you. It happened to me — once — in 2008. Most times, it’s a struggle to discover that straightforward idea.
Vikas Jhingran is the Toastmasters 2007 World Champion of Public Speaking. He describes the problem like this:
“It’s like taking out a big block of marble, and chiseling away at it. Then stepping back to see your progress. Then chiseling some more. Stepping back again to evaluate. And repeating the process until you have a finished statue.
“It’s a grind. And sometimes, you have to throw out the marble and start over.”
One of my speech coaches has a terrific saying that applies here: “Your message is a MESS, with AGE. Get your ideas on paper (or computer). That’s the ‘mess.’ Then, chip away at your material over and over. That’s the ‘aging’ process that leads to your memorable message.
A Simple Solution to a Challenging Problem
One of my mentors is Kevin Burke. He is a 40-year veteran actor and stage performer. He recently shared an exercise that helps you uncover your core message. It’s simple, but not easy. It’s called 250 – 150 – 75 – 240. Here’s how it works:
Write the first version of your story, in 250 words. Set it aside.
When you return to it, cut out material until it is 150 words in length. Set it aside again.
Return, and then remove half the remaining material to reach a 75-word version.
The final step is to cut your 75-word story to 240 characters.
A Message For Any Occasion
Why would you put yourself through this experience? It’s not to create a ‘tweetable’ version of your talk and discard the rest of your material. You’re multi-purposing your message.
Other reasons to go through this exercise include:
- Uncovering your CORE message – one or two sentences that summarize your main point.
- Creating a 75-word version that becomes your ’30-second talk.’ Use this at a networking or social event. Or when you have a short time to explain the benefit you provide.
- In your 150-word version, you to give more detail about yourself.
- This forces you to get to the point. Most people spend too much time on backstory or extraneous details. Audiences today want you to get to the point. If you don’t, you’ll lose their attention. Gain their interest with your brief introduction. Once they show interest, you can go deeper with the details.
An Example of the 250-150-75-240
I was recently at a two-day retreat. During one of the breakout sessions, a woman named Margie stood up. She told us that she is mentally exhausted. She feels like she’s being pulled in a hundred different directions. She’s a business owner, spouse, mother and daughter. She said, “My tank is empty.”
When asked ‘why,’ she said, “I can’t say no.”
The facilitator asked, “What’s the reason for that?”
She paused and said, “Because if I say ‘no’ people will get mad at me.”
The facilitator said, “What will happen if they get mad?”
She thought about this, then said, “They might not want me around?”
“They won’t want you around?” the facilitator said.
“Yeah, like, I won’t matter,” she said.
When she said those words, a chill ran down my spine. For all of my adult life, I have felt like there is something wrong with me. I’ve felt like I’ve often fallen short of my goals. Many times I’ve felt I didn’t measure up or wasn’t good enough.
And now I knew why. Because deep down, I’ve felt like I don’t matter. When I was two years old, my father walked out on my Mom and me. I’ve buried emotions from that experience and I didn’t know how it impacted me.
Now I do. What else can a two-year-old child feel but that he doesn’t matter if one of his parents leaves?
This was one of the most liberating moments of my life. I finally could fill in that missing ‘puzzle piece’ that has confounded me on why I’ve often gotten poor results.
I recently heard a woman, Margie, say that she is feeling pulled in a hundred different directions. She said, “My tank is empty.”
When asked why, she said, “I can’t say no. Because if I say ‘no’ people will get mad at me. They might not want me around. And I’ll feel like I won’t matter.”
Those words sent a chill down my spine. For all of my adult life, I have felt I’ve always fallen short. That I didn’t measure up or wasn’t good enough.
It’s because I’ve felt I don’t matter. When I was two years old, my father walked out on my Mom and me. What else can a two-year-old child feel but that he doesn’t matter if one of his parents leaves?
I finally could fill in that missing ‘puzzle piece’ about why I’ve often gotten poor results.
I recently heard a woman say, “My tank is empty. I can’t say ‘no.’ If I do, people will get mad at me. And I’ll feel like I don’t matter.”
For much of my life, I’ve felt like I’m not good enough and afraid that I’ll let people down. Her words helped me realize I’ve had that same feeling — “I don’t matter.”
With this insight, the events of my life now make total sense to me.
A woman said, “I feel like I don’t matter.” I realized that I’ve been carrying that same message since I was 2-years old. My life struggles now completely make sense to me. This insight enables me to overcome self-limiting behaviors.
Do you see how each successive version gets closer to my premise? Each is clearer, until the final version quickly introduces the inciting moment, the problem and my insight – wisdom that can help others.
Want to uncover your core message? Use this format. It takes time and thought. But, in the end it will pay off with a crystal-clear premise that leaves a lasting imprint on your audience