Let’s face it, corporate communications tend to be dry and lazy. Crafting a message that resonates, captivates and avoids the pitfalls of ‘business as usual’ communications is a crucial skill for business leaders to master.
Drawing on my 25 years of experience that have seen me secure more than US$36 million in competitive pitches and investment presentations, here are three tips to help you cut through the noise and make your message unforgettable.
We live in a world where we are overloaded with stuff: advertising, media, on-demand and catch-up services, stories from everyone all over social media, more emails, more phone calls and texts, six different messaging apps, notifications – it’s overwhelming.
True memory formation requires focus: we remember only what we notice. That’s why if we want to help people remember us or our ideas, information needs to be presented in a novel way to capture our attention. A surprising introduction and a ‘who dunnit’ style story will grab your audience’s attention and cement the narrative in their memory while they actively decode your story with you.
But while spinning a great yarn is a good starting point, your audience will only continue to give their precious attention to people they like, trust and believe in. Hearing a great idea from someone we don’t like feels unpleasant, creating a level of psychological stress similar to experiencing a physical threat.
While it’s not possible to make every single person in your audience like you, a key part of your messaging strategy should always focus on creating trust and building a connection with your audience. Tools like empathy, humor and eye contact can help build a deeper connection and entice your audience to pay attention.
Even the most intelligent person uses more neural processing power to decode big words and densely complex descriptions than simple language and explanations. Would you rather have them use their precious and limited attention to make sure they understood you correctly, or would you rather simplify your message, thereby reducing friction and receiving a positive emotional response?
It takes a lot of work to simplify your ideas down to their essence, but that effort will always return dividends. To cut through the noise, I’d suggest distilling your message down to three significant points.
The more you can simplify your ideas, the more transmissible and memorable they become. A pithy headline and short, snappy quotes will enable your audience to share your thinking with others, allowing them to do the selling for you.
Paring down your ideas can be a challenge, as business leaders are often so caught up in the information that they struggle to take a step back and see it through the eyes of their audience. If your audience can only realistically retain a handful of points, your job is to focus their attention on the three points that will move the needle.
When I was a fresh-faced young ad guy in New York, I was lucky enough to work with advertising royalty Phil Dusenberry. He went on to write The Natural, starring Robert Redford, and lots of other amazing things.
He was an incredible adman and an incredible human being. I remember being in rooms with him when he pitched. He would present the idea and then abruptly start packing up his things to exit the room.
There was a standing joke about him: “What’s the first thing you hear after Phil pitches? His car tires screeching in the car park.”
And that’s because Phil knew that once you’ve done your pitch, presented the idea and sold it in, all you can do from that point is unravel it and unpick the great work that’s just been done. You need to present your ideas, and then you need to get the heck out of there.
Overselling is one of the most common mistakes that I see in the pitching room, and the problem extends to a wide range of business settings, from press conferences to on-stage presentations.
Most people will have some degree of anxiety or self-doubt when talking to a large audience. So, even once you’ve successfully sold your idea or message and done it well, the temptation is to keep selling to ensure it has connected with your audience.
The irony is that this can have the opposite impact. Once you’ve got people agreeing with you and you’ve got them to say yes, all you can do from that moment onwards is go backward.
Overselling can open up your audience for doubt through repetition as they start to read into your choice to make the same points over and over. Doing this can take them to a place where they start questioning their first decision – whether that’s a decision to trust you or a decision to buy from your business.
Keeping your message crisp and single-minded will make it easier for your audience to buy in. The key is knowing when to stop selling and leaving the room while the idea is still easy to embrace. It’s almost always earlier than you think.
Crafting an unforgettable message involves a delicate dance of capturing attention, simplifying ideas and knowing when to stop. By implementing these three tools into your messaging toolbox, you’ll be well on your way to winning the room and leaving a lasting imprint on your audience.
This article draws on content from Winning the Room by Jonathan Pease, out now.
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Jonathan Pease, widely known as JP, is a distinguished creative and communications expert with more than 25 years of experience in the marketing and media sectors. His professional journey has seen him secure over US$36 million in competitive pitches and investment presentations, becoming a highly respected name in the world of communication and pitching. In 2023, JP authored his first book, titled ‘Winning the Room’, which reveals how he overcame a debilitating childhood speech disorder to become one of the world’s leading public speaking coaches. The book offers expert guidance that teaches the skills and inspires the confidence needed for readers to overcome stage fright and transform into an influential and affable communicator. Discover more at https://www.winningtheroom.co/