Every time I read my Twitter feed I always seem to click on the links Mia Freedman suggests – even if it’s not something I’m really interested in! Mia has mastered the art of a compelling attention-grabbing headline that even a time-poor, information-overloaded Twitter user is loathe to go past.
Imagine if we applied that same practice to the key messages in our presentations – if the way we presented our key message made our audience immediately click with us, and what we are trying to say.
Most messages in presentations are pretty stock-standard, and come in only one flavour: bland. So how can you sex up your key messages?
When we say sexy we mean packaging your key messages so they are a memorable, repeatable, soundbite. This is not about ‘dumbing down’ your messages or using corporate jargon. It is about ‘smarting down’ your messages in a way people will connect with and remember. So here are our top tips, and they all involve leaving your clothes on.
1. ‘Smart down’ your message
Find the right words to say what you have said – but use words that are memorable and grab people’s attention.
Look to newspaper headlines for inspiration. Who can go past the New York Post‘s most famous headline: ‘Headless body in topless bar’? A less gruesome and more recent example is from one of workshop participants, Tim. Tim’s key message was ‘Results from last year’, which were spectacular. Quite a stock-standard message.
He made it sexy by calling this first message: ‘Why I love you.” So his presentation began with the words ‘I want to start by telling you why I love you’. Kaboom! You can be sure he had everyone’s attention. Compare that with the more conventional start of: ‘I am here to share last year’s results.’ Yawn.
Another participant, Michael, was presenting sales targets for 2013. He repackaged it to say: ‘I’m here to show you how you can live your dream in 2013.’ Needless to say, he had everyone hanging on to his every word.
2. Spin it
What if you have a boring message that has already been said? Your challenge, in sexing it up, is to think about a different spin you can put on it. I’ll use some book titles to help you.
Stephen Covey wrote the first bestseller on productivity. But he didn’t call it How to increase your productivity. He called it The 7 habits of highly effective people. Imagine starting a presentation by saying ‘I’m here to share the seven habits of highly effective people.’
Just when we thought the productivity thing was done and dusted, along came author David Allan, with his book Get Things Done. That title is his one and only key message and, again, it’s another bestseller. Surely there is no other way to package this key message, you’d think.
But viola: we now have another bestseller with Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-hour workweek. Again, the key message is in the title. Imagine the lure of the promise of these titles. They are sexy! That’s what you want from your key messages: chutzpah and flair that can excite and enthral your audience.
3. Short is sexy
Finally, your sexy message must be short: 15 seconds to 30 seconds. Before we discovered the lure of the sexy key message we used to say ‘Storytelling can help you increase your sales by more effectively engaging with your customers’. Here’s our new, sexier version of the saying: ‘Facts tell, story sells.’
Remember the saying, ‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’? That’s crap.
We live in a content-rich world, so the only way you can help your audience find you in a tsunami of information is by focusing on ‘what you say’.
Of course, how you say it matters – but it is what you say that counts. So for your next presentation, remember to sex up your key messages, ‘smart down’ your message by finding the right words, put a new spin on it and keep it short.
Who knows: your next key message might replace that New York Post headline as the most memorable ever?