Sadly, having extensive education, expertise or experience does not automatically mean we have the capacity to convey our message in meetings, with clarity, confidence and influence and as a result, opportunities are often lost. At the end of the day, getting that bottom-line message across, is the entire point of the exercise and no matter how engaging or fabulous we were along the way, if they didn’t get the message, we failed in our mission.
In the last blog we explored the science of goal-setting and found that goals that are either too detailed in nature or lacking in any kind of heart-felt connection can do more harm than good in terms of long term success.
What we did find however is that using a goal as a compass rather than a GPS, holding it loosely not tightly, allows powerful forces to come to bear to achieve an outcome. Collaborations can be considered, tangential opportunities explored, sacrifice of immediate targets for the longer-term goal are all on the table when we hold a more fluid notion of the path towards our end goal.
So it is when we identify an end message or outcome for a business meeting or report. We need to have a clear idea of the purpose in mind – the message we want to convey or decision to be made – but some flexibility and openness in terms of how we’re going to get there. The science of business communications is in following a logical structure towards a pre-considered destination. The art is in the choice and flexibility of path to get us there.
So how do we identify a crystal-clear, focused, bottom-line message in a way that is clear, tangible and direct for the group, given “here’s a bunch of interesting information”, is not going to cut it in a time-poor world where the audience is thinking “So what? What’s the point for me? Why am I here? How’s this relevant to me? How is this a productive use of my time? What do you want me to do about it? Why should I care?”
And here’s where I’d like to offer you the world’s simplest and most effective formula for written proposals through to informal meetings and larger group presentation: A (Action) + B (Benefit) = C (Conclusion).
Let’s break that down (for more information, go to our video on POWERFUL PRESENTATIONS THAT SELL
- ACTION: Firstly we get clear, at the beginning of the planning process on what it is we’re asking them to think or do as a result of this time together. This is an audience-centred purpose not presenter-centred. It’s not ‘what do I want to tell them’. It’s ‘what am I asking them to do’. Most of the time we’re asking them to do something quite tangible – approve, cooperate, collaborate, support, decide, engage, apply, try out, give feedback or input, research, study or communicate to our respective teams.
It’s not always a ‘do’. Sometimes it’s a ‘think’ or ‘feel’. I’d like them to feel positive about it, reassured, confident that things are on track, question their preconceived ideas or doubts, or indeed challenge the established thinking.
We are however always asking people to think or do something different, otherwise the obvious question, of course, is “why are we there – reading or listening?”. Information is cheap in an over-informed world. Be direct and directive in what you’re specifically asking of this audience.
- B stands for the BENEFIT of taking this action or sometimes we focus on the consequence of not taking it. Examples of benefits may include: making money, saving money, saving time, looking good, feeling good or feeling secure. Consequences could be anything from the fines and sentences associated with compliance issues, to security breeches that could result from sloppy IT habits, to missed opportunities in the market or long-term sustainability or competitiveness of a product line. It’s the ‘what if we do nothing’ argument.
- Finally, in the name of clarity, succinctness and focus, we mesh the answers to both of the above into a single sentence CONCLUSION that will be used to wrap up your presentation or report. You don’t want it to be as broad as “Just do it (action) because it’s good (benefit)”, nor as specific as “So we’ll need to communicate this 15 point plan to our teams, ensure everybody’s on board and on the same page, get full commitment and buy-in, follow through with checkpoints at each milestone and measure results as we go (action) in order to ensure we achieve our targets of X, Y & Z for the year ahead (benefit)”. The overriding action and overriding benefit or two will do the trick. The detail will be in the guts of the meeting or presentation itself.
The beauty of writing this one-sentence message at the outset of your preparation process, is that it focuses your thinking, reduces your preparation time and gives you a clear final goal, that’s emotionally meaningful to your audience and allows flexibility and spontaneity, in how you then approach the journey to prove the point.
My call to action to you therefore is to give this a go with your next proposal, team meeting or larger group presentation. Get in touch if you’re having trouble nailing it. I’ll help you wordsmith it and get it down pat, no charge! I guarantee it gives you not just greater planning efficiency but greater clarity of thought and a more timely, outcome-driven meeting.