What Is It You Are Trying To Communicate? – This One Sentence Is Critical

unclearLet’s do this again…

What is it you are trying to communicate?

If you are giving a speech, a business presentation, sending an e-mail, writing a report, then you have something to communicate.

What is it you are trying to communicate?

Whatever that “it” is that you are trying to communicate, say “it” clearly, succinctly, in one clear sentence.

Here’s my one sentence for this blog post:

Be able to summarize your key message in one short, easy-to-grasp sentence.

In my speech classes, I require my students to give me an outline. I then follow the outlines as they speak. More times than I care to think about, I have this reaction – I can’t figure out what they are trying to communicate. And it drives me crazy.

And then, some of those students may become presenters later in their professional life. I’ve heard more than my share of presentations that, at the end, I think – “I could not figure out what they were trying to communicate.”

This is not good!

Clear communication is essential. And for that to happen, a clear one-sentence summary of a whole message is critical. Call this what you like – a “topic sentence” works fine. But it needs to be clear, simple – almost boring.

Don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. The speech or presentation should not be boring. You must start your presentation with some kind of “hook,” some “let me gain your interest” beginning that indicates “this will be worth my time to listen” to the audience members.

But then, that one key sentence should follow. That one clear “this is what I am communicating” sentence needs to be so simple that it is almost boring. So simple, so clear…

Tomorrow, I will present my synopsis of Gary Hamel’s book What Matters Now to a leadership team for a major organization. I have a multi-page, comprehensive handout that each participant will have – with many quotes and excerpts from his excellent book, an outline of key content, and my lessons and takeaways..

But, in the book, Mr. Hamel clearly states that there are five things that matter now.

So, I will say this, pretty early:

Gary Hamel identifies five things that matter now; let me explain them to you.

This tells the audience what I will be communicating. Does that sentence identify the five things? No. But it says what is coming in the overall presentation.   (Here’s my blog post that lists the five).

Every communicator is in constant competition with other messengers and messages for the time and attention of the audience. They don’t have to listen to you. They have so many things to listen to, to read, to think about. As communicators, we have to say, clearly, compellingly,

“My message is worth listening to.”

So, the audience will say, back,

“Ok – just what is this message you want me to listen to?”

We’d better have a good answer. If we can’t answer that question clearly, simply, we’re lost before we even get started.

So, always remember — Be clear! Know what you are trying to communicate. And state it clearly, state it simply.

Here’s your test. When the session is over, and someone asks a participant, “what did he talk about?,” they will have an answer. If they don’t – if they say, “I couldn’t quite figure it out” – then you’ve got some real work to do!


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