How to Structure your Message for High Impact

The best inspiration to help me with making impact when presenting a short message was this famous quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt:

“Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.”

Interestingly, over the years I found that this advice is equally valuable for longer presentations.

You’ve L.I.S.T.E.N-ed well (read previous post), you’ve picked up valuable clues about your listeners’ needs, you’ve confirmed/validated them and you’re about to launch straight into your message.

Wait! A few moments’ thought is needed to ensure you present your information in not just a strategically appropriate format, but also in a memorable manner to ensure your listeners hear exactly what you intend to say and consequently act appropriately on it. Even just a little preparation goes a long, long way towards persuading listeners to act on your message!

Following on from my first post on Listening Skills this is the second in a series of four to assist you enhance your communication skills. The main objective is to establish and maintain rapport with your listener, so good listening skills should be followed-up with excellent presentation skills.

Whether you are a Retail Consultant at your store/counter interacting with a prospective customer, a Manager in front of your staff, or a Sales Professional pursuing a complex B2B opportunity, the sequence in which you present your information will affect how the listeners respond to it. Clearly, you want to make impact, get them to become interested/enthused in your message, but more importantly, your main outcome should be to get them to act on your message. For example, Retail Consultants may not only want their customers to agree with their information, ideally they want for them to walk away with a purchase, feeling great about the interaction. Training Managers, for example, may not only want their staff to agree with the skills and knowledge they’re imparting during training sessions, ideally they would want for them to go back to their workplaces and having embraced the skills and knowledge presented, use it on a regular basis. With this in mind, you should take a second or two to order your message appropriately in your minds before you open your mouth and present it. Following is an easy-to-use and effective 3X3 structuring pattern which will help you achieve this.

Even though there has been a huge change on channels via which people obtain information these days (hand-held devices & plethora of Apps), nothing has really changed in regard how listeners prefer to receive information. They still want to be told what you’re about to tell them (Head-line), then be told, and finally be told what you told them. This recipe is an oldie and still a true goodie! If attention, retention and action on your message are important to you, I can’t stress this approach strongly enough. Each part has a unique purpose and process and should be managed accordingly. Let’s see how you can do this bit-by-bit.

The ABC’s of starting: Opening – introducing your message:

The purpose of the first part of your message is to prepare your listeners for your main message. Your challenge is to:

  • Grab their attention (A)
  • Create a bond (B) by connecting to the individual and
  • Confirm (C) you’re on the right track and they’re OK with it.

This should take no more than 10% of your total presentation time, so keep it short, sharp and shiny.

How to present your main message with a P.O.P. – not a fizzle.

Regardless of whether you have only 2 minutes or 20 minutes to communicate your main message, if you can distill it into three main parts, the impact is bound to be enhanced. There seem to be a strong a cultural reference to three’s: – three bears; three little pigs; three musketeers. We remember things easier when heard in three’s, ‘slip – slap – slop; click – clack – front’n’back;  so, start talking three’s. (tricolons)

  • Firstly: Communicate the Position (P).
    • This may be either your organisation’s or product’s current position. For example: “We have an exciting new range.” It may also be the listeners’ positions, their needs, problems, requests. For example: “With your allergic condition, you need to consider… ”
    • This forms the foundation of the main point that you’re trying to make. ‘Position’ may include features, ranges, variety, services etc. Use any information that would appeal to the listener based on the clues you picked up earlier on.
    • At this stage you’re working on the listeners’ motivation and linking back to their needs/problems will certainly maintain the interest you’ve already grabbed during the Opening.
  • Secondly: You should elaborate and provide reason for your information provided in the Position statement. You do this by talking about the Options (O).
    • Product knowledge, experience with a process, or sales/management skills form the basis of this part. To do this well, you have to know your stuff.
    • Be careful to not spend too much time here, for this is the technical bit that can bore your listeners and force them to lose interest.
    • Keep it fairly short, revealing only what you believe will make an impression on the listener. If the listeners want more technical detail, they’ll ask for it or you can provide links/hand-outs afterward.
  • Thirdly: Strongly present your Proposal (P).
    • You’re almost at the end of your speaking time and before you wrap-up, you need to ensure the listener’s is in no doubt about your recommendation or advice.
    • Here’s another opportunity to revisit the listeners’ needs/problems and the idea is to get them to agree with your message.
    • Sincerity is very important at this stage and if you’ve managed to develop rapport, this is the stage where you work to maintain it.

Time to be seated! You’ve now used 90% of your intended communication time:

  • 10% to prepare the listener using the ABC opening and
  • 80% to deliver the P.O.P.

To ensure your presentation made impact and will be acted on, sign it O.F.F. in a professional way. This is how to do it following the O.F.F. method:

  • Revisit the intended Outcome (O) or purpose of this presentation.
    • What is it that your listener initially expected? What is it that you initially wanted them to hear, feel, experience?
  • Offer the listener an opportunity for Final (F) questions. “What do you think?” or “What else can I tell you about this product?” This is an important stage in any sales-interaction, for this is where you can confirm the listeners’ readiness to commit/act/buy.
  • Finally conclude the presentation by addressing the immediate Future (F). What exactly is going to happen next? E.g.
    • Retail – “What wrapping do you prefer?” or “Would you like anything else with this or can I take it over to the cash register for you?”
    • B2B Sales – “We normally suggest a demonstration of our solution next, however, how would you prefer to proceed from here?”

You’ve started your presentation confidently and with impact, finish it with equal impact.

These are the 3X3 quick and sure-fire steps in structuring your presentations for better impact. When you use them you’ll be thrilled to notice how your presentations improve from day to day. In my next post, you can read how to appeal to your listener even more effectively by leveraging from basic Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) communication techniques.

About Rolene
Independent Consultant specializing in Sales Messaging (including Presentation Literacy), Methodologies and Coaching Skills

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