5 Steps to Make Your Message Stick

By Barry Pruitt

Making your message or ideas "sticky" is critical, whether it is communicating more effectively with your team, other leaders and CEOs, or with prospective business partners and investors. I recently observed in a client conversation stream how the senior team received positive feedback from attendees of the “all hands on deck” meeting. Words like "excited," "positive," and "great" gave clear feedback that the senior team’s business focus – and message – was beginning to stick. Think about the message that you want to stick and then, plan it out following the below guidelines. This will ensure that your own messages resonate. BIG_R2Icon_PeopleGrowth - High Performance Teams

What is the core message?

I talk “core” regularly with clients – core values, core purpose, core asset, core team members, etc. Take a look at what you are trying to convey and then identify your core message and core audience. It may include more than one statement, and may have many parts to the concept or arguments. Boil your message down to its essence. Force yourself to prioritize the most critical piece of information that you want your listeners to hear. Short. Sweet. Concise. Do this and win the mind space every time.

Set the hook.

You need to get attention. Your competition is family, email, appointments, meetings, push messages on smart phones, text, RSS feeds, stock alerts, and more. Are employee eyes glazing over when you attempt to rally enthusiasm after a tough 18 months of downward sales? Throw in something that grabs their attention and creates curiosity. Begin your meeting with a statement that won't fully be addressed until you are about to wrap up the meeting.

I was on-site with a client in Inverness, Scotland who opened a meeting with the following, “Take a look at the person on your left. Now look at the one on the right. In three months there is good chance that only one of the three of you will still be employed.” Audience attention won. He then spent the next 45 minutes outlining how he intended to avoid that outcome. Not surprisingly, all paid attention and buy in was high for working together to succeed.

Paint a mental picture.

No matter your situation or the message you wish to convey, use descriptive language that paints a mental picture. Avoid general descriptions and go for specific. Take “I received an e-mail from our number one client” and go specific with “When I opened my laptop this morning, Outlook indicated I had 87 e-mails waiting. Incredible, I thought, since I cleared my box at 10 pm yesterday. I scrolled down the list looking for the most important, and there, like a blinking light, was an e-mail from our largest client.” Think of this approach as the Velcro theory of make your message stick--try to hook into multiple types of memory. Velcro was intended to paint an apt picture in your mind. Did it work?

Use proof.

What makes people believe ideas? We often believe something simply because trusted friends, family or close colleagues believe something. If you are trying to persuade a skeptical audience and you are not a member of one of the three groups mentioned, you have an uphill battle. Don't overlook the importance of mentioning an authority, survey, report, statistic or a solid detail that will clinch the believability factor of what you are trying to convey.

Who is getting emotional?

You, that's who. If you want your listeners to grasp, remember, believe or otherwise buy into your message, that is. Thinking exclusively about statistics puts people in an analytical frame of mind. Give them an example and you will have a compelling message. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, I remember Dale Carnegie writing something like this about a speaker, “he’s going to go on forever … he has no moving parts.” Avoid an unremarkable message by bringing the message with emotion.

The story clenches the communication.

You need a story to exemplify your point. Why did Subway’s sales increase by 18% after the company introduced the Jared campaign? Because the story of Jared, and the weight he lost by going to Subway each day, "stuck.”

When your message is ready, there are four basics for delivery; stand up, speak up, shut up, and sit down. Don’t take too long to do any one of these.

Then, in addition to the above, take these Five Action Steps to Make Your Next Message Stick.

1. Think of a situation when you will be sharing a message this week. Write down the main points you intend to convey. Paragraphs or sentences are not necessary, phrases and words will suffice.

2. Now decide on your main message. What’s your objective? What would you have your audience think, do, or say as a result?

3. Align your message by writing your ending or conclusion first. Base it on your main points. I know it seems odd, but otherwise, how will you know precisely how to get there? I advise clients to determine Annual or Quarterly priorities before the weekly actions - this ensures alignment. Write the ending first. 

4. Next, write your opening so it is aligned closely to your close. Not the same just aligned.

5. For this last step, imagine a plumb line stretched from your opening to your conclusions. Fill the body of your message along this plumb line with proof points, facts, details and stories along the way.

And finally, yes, I wrote the above five action steps first. Follow these steps whether running a meeting, selling your products and services, or meeting with your business partner, and your message will stick.

Please stick your comments below - Barry


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