Master Your Message for Maximum Impact

Happy New Year!

Be Bold: Make a Point.

As a write this, we are on the cusp of a new age. 2012 will be a year that will test us as few others have done in our lifetime.

If you’re at all aware of what’s going on in the world, you sense that things are changing. In fact, we are at the end of an 80-100 year cycle, born out by history … and books such as “The Fourth Turning,” “Conquer the Crash,” and others. Yes, the dramatic changes we’re going through have been forecast for some time. History does, in fact, repeat itself.

The current upheavals in governments will not be confined to the European and African continents. The unrest is hitting us closer and closer to home. This is just the beginning.

Society is changing worldwide. Politics will follow.

This is an opportunity for anyone with clarity of mind to make a bold point. This seems to me to be a rare event these days. Another way of putting it might be posing it in the question, “Where have all the leaders gone?”

The problem has been brought into clearer focus for me by the constant discussion of the current US political “soup” by television and newspaper pundits: “We’re looking for bold new ideas, yet there’s nobody around willing to take a chance and present one.”

Most politicians today pander to the will of the people, trying to judge the wind, giving special interest groups what they want, being politically correct, ignoring the truth, hoping it will all right itself if we keep doing what we’re doing.

Society is “concerned” at the moment, and rightly so. That concern will gradually turn to fear during the coming year as economic conditions become worse. For the communicator, there has never been a more fascinating time to be alive.

It is a time for bold thinkers; inspiring presenters; clarity in purpose – in short, leaders.


Bringing It Back to Us

Presentations are about making a point, and most of them attempt to do it persuasively. That in itself is the challenge – to fulfill the primary purpose of a presentation – to make a point – one point – in a compelling manner.

History has taken dramatic turns in the past through presentations. In the US alone, great speeches are remembered long after their time: King, Kennedy, Lincoln … the list goes on and on. Each one was centred on a single thought, or theme.

This past year, I ran across the work of Richard Mayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, and his work on multimedia learning. His key finding (in my opinion) is that “people who received concise multimedia presentations performed better on tests of recall that did those who received messages that contained extraneous, but interesting material.” (97% of the test subjects did better!)

Going off topic severely affects how effective your presentation will be.

You’ll find my short video on the subject here (along with an in-depth article on Professor Mayer’s findings).

When I develop a live presentation, my biggest challenge is always to attempt to “cut out the crap,” as I call it – to remove the content that’s “interesting” but doesn’t further the persuasive argument; that doesn’t support my key point. We humans love to get off track!

I predict that the corporate world (in fact, the world in general – but let’s focus on corporate) will be looking more and more for problem solvers; people who can come up with bold new ideas and communicate them succinctly, in a compelling manner.

This is our opportunity.

Presenters who get to the point quickly, decisively, and in a manner than captures the attention of the audience are rare. If you choose to focus on the message, have the confidence to stand up for your beliefs, and the ability to express them with clarity and passion, you will be sought out and revered for your thoughts.

That is my prediction for 2012.

Toastmasters is a fabulous training ground for singleness of purpose in presentations. Virtually all speeches in their manuals must be completed in five to seven minutes. Novices often go over time – in many cases, dramatically over time. They attempt to include everything but the kitchen sink, suffer from a fuzzy objective, or don’t simply don’t have clarity of purpose.

I find that my short videos (that I agonize over in terms of the economizing my words) are starting to get an audience – 44,000 views annually and growing. I believe this is as a result of the pendulum swinging back to the desire for truth, a need to trust, and a realization that the message is the key. In that regard, “less is more,“ more now so, than ever.

PowerPoint and Keynote will have less prominence as eye candy going forward. They are powerful tools, but used inappropriately most of the time. They are “support” and so should be tools that we select only when our message can be more powerfully delivered with their help.

The message is indeed king.

For the next few years, if you concentrate on one key theme or idea for each presentation, supported by key points that persuasively and conclusively make that point, you will experience a new level of success on the platform.

We’re looking for problem solvers now – leaders. This is my challenge for you …

Be bold: Make a point. Solve a problem. Change the way we think about our troubled world.

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