In a musty vault, deep in the bowels of a hidden cave, there is a box. Inside it is the secret for instantly improving ALL your content. Marketing, advertising, communications, presentations and training … you can dramatically improve them in a single step!
How? Let me tell you a quick story.
The man was angry. Actually, that’s minimizing it. He was furious. Mr. Executive hated me for trying to improve his content. He was very knowledgeable but not very flexible. The company wanted to do TED-style presentations, so we had to get his comments focused and down to 20 minutes. His were at 45 minutes and locked in stone. That’s when he actually bellowed, “It’s my presentation, and I can say what I want!”
It’s My Presentation and I Can Say What I Want!
That was the problem in 10 simple words. And he was wrong on both points. To start improving content, you have to realize these two things:
1. It’s not your presentation. The time belongs to the audience. At best, you are borrowing it. They can take it back at any moment, and then you are basically talking to yourself. Happens all the time!
2. You can’t say anything you want. You should be communicating things the audience wants to meet their needs and so they will do what you want them to do.
I locked the door, swore the executive to secrecy and told him the secret. Now I’m going to tell you. The secret for instantly improving ALL your content is:
Take Out Everything the Audience Already Knows!
Right now you may be thinking, “What-tha? That’s it?” Stay with me and you will realize the power it holds. There are three kinds of information – what people know, what they don’t know, and what they don’t care to know. Only one of those matters. Focus on what people don’t know but they care about.
Dale Carnegie Should be Punished
“Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said.”
I realize that Mr. Carnegie has been a guide to millions but – Dale Carnegie is dead wrong! Just for a moment consider how condescending and insulting this is to all those people in the audience. He said this in 1936 at a time when there was less communication, less access to information and practically no special technology to facilitate engagement.
You may remember that we took a hard look at modern audiences in the blog “Zombie Audiences From Hell” and realized that people are most interested in meaning and messages. The reality is that, from the very beginning, you must give your audience a reason to care. If they don’t care, they won’t listen — and plotting out your presentation with even the most exciting multimedia support won’t matter.
Formalizing the Obvious
People don’t listen to what they already know. One of my mentors was Ed Flannigan at IBM. He had a wonderful expression, “Formalizing the Obvious.” When you fill your materials with things the audience knows, it’s like announcing that a trumpet player plays the trumpet. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Tell me something I don’t know. Grab my interest and help me care.
What Happened to Mr. Executive?
We stopped and took a look at the presentation outline. That’s right – there was one. At each point, we considered what percentage of the audience already knew it. If it was 80% or more, we scratched it out.
All the recaps and reviews were covered with red Sharpie. The remainder was what the executive wanted to say and it was about 10 minutes of information! Then we went back and looked at the content from the audience’s perspective. Instead of talking about “what it is,” he spent more time in “why” and “what it means.”
He focused on things that were new and made it relevant.
Fresh Information, Analogies & Examples
After we restructured and filled in the holes, he stopped. I won’t kid you – it had been a little traumatic because corporations love review. There is great comfort in making 15 message bullets and formalizing the obvious. Instead, his new presentation was a solid 20 minutes of fresh information, analogies, examples — and a huge success.
We shook hands and parted friends. The audience never missed what he took out. The rest of the now-ecstatic executive team didn’t miss it, either!
It’s That Simple
A person’s attention is precious. Considering the value of your information is a gift. Being in a position to influence thinking and action is invaluable! You can make the most of the opportunity and significantly increase your results by doing this one, simple thing.
Never tell people what they already know.
If you want to know more about improving your content and results just click on CONTACT US and get in touch.