The curse of knowledge is what Chip and Dan Heath in Made to Stick call those situations where you know a lot, probably more that your audience, and struggle to get clarity in your presentations. How can you simplify without losing meaning? How can you pare down without doing the material and yourself an injustice? How can you clarify without being patronising? And if we don’t consider this process and outcome of clarification then we run the real risk of losing our audiences by overwhelming them with a mass of information or losing them in a wealth of detail. Less is definitely more but how to achieve that is part art and part skill.
This is the first in a series of blogs looking at how you can get real clarity around your presentation content. And it starts off with forcing on your core message. Other posts will consider how you frame your content and specific methods of being clear in your content.
If you had to deliver your presentation in sixty seconds no more, what would you say? What do you want your audience to take away? This is not the same as the title of your presentation. ‘ Health and Safety in the Workplace’ is not a core message. It is a topic and a pretty dull title to boot! A core message correctly and thoughtfully written is a great starting place for making sure your presentation material hits the spot, is pitched at the right level and is delivered in an engaging way.
So how do you write a meaningful core message?
- Consider what you want your audience to go away and do, know and feel. It is not usually enough that they go away with an understanding of health and safety in the workplace. What do you want them to specifically DO (adopt particular behaviours, feedback to particular people, sign on the dotted cline). What do want them to specifically KNOW ( particular facts, a defining statistic, where to find information). And how would you like them FEEL (inspired, motivated, significant, cheerful)
- In order to achieve your outcome be specific about what information they need to have in order for them to do, know and feel what you would like them to. For example for people to adopt the new H &S legislation they will need to start doing xyz, know the consequences of not adopting the legislation and how to do xyz. They will also need to feel like they want to take action i.e. be motivated.
- Finish off this sentence: by the end of this presentation you will be able to….( this focuses your mind and that of your audience less on information download and more on outcomes.
- Define your core message in an active, engaging way. Make sure it is not just a descriptive topic title but a succinct, pithy message in its own right. This means it will need a active verb, give an outcome and outline of the information contained. And the best core messages are colloquial and in spoken English. Let’s take each of these elements:
- Use an active Verb in your core message. This takes ‘Understanding H and S in the workplace’ to ‘ Why Understanding H and S is essential for line management in the workplace’
- Giving an outcome will make the message more impact and memorable. ‘As a line manager, you need to understand how to manage your staff so they are healthy, safe and protected’
- Adding in some idea of content makes the core message more meaningful and even stand alone: as a line manager it is essential that you understand the five new pieces of legislation around xxx so that you can manage your team and ensure they are healthy, safe and protected.
- And finally the more colloquial and conversational you can make the core message the better. To be the best line manager you can be you need to grasp the five pieces of new legislation so your staff can rock while being healthy, safe and protected’
You might like to remember these five features of a great core message by the nemonic VOICES – Verb, Outcomes, Information, Content, English(spoken)
Revisit your presentations. How clear was your core message. If you and it were not clear, then heaven help the audience!
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