When the gift of writing is a curse

What you have to say is vital. Business critical.

The message you want to convey is imperative to the success of your organisation - and you don't just need the people on your senior team to hear it; they've got to really buy into it.

You need people to listen and engage. If they don't, you're certain that your goal - be it financial, organisation wide, or project based - will elude you.

So, you've spent hours writing your presentation, and it reads well, flows nicely. You've edited, honed, and perfected your words and there's some hard-hitting technical information in there too, to help make your case.

Writing is your gift, and you've crafted a powerful speech. The language you've written packs a punch because you want everyone to sit up and listen. 

 Photo © PhotoSteve101, via Flickr (CC)

Photo © PhotoSteve101, via Flickr (CC)

And yet, you emerge from your senior team meeting knowing in your gut that your message was lost.

It fell flat.

The technical data felt dry, the energy in the room was low, and people didn't get fired up in the way you'd hoped and expected. The business-critical message you wanted to implant got glossed over, somehow. And you just heard two colleagues discussing where to go for lunch as they gathered up their notebooks; others checked their email as they wandered back to their desks. No buzz, no passion, no inspiration. People didn't get it. 

If the hours you spent working on the presentation didn't work, then how do you inspire people? Is it possible to influence them, and lead their thinking, without some kind of magic touch, or natural gift?

One thing's for certain. The gift of writing can turn out to be a curse when it comes to speaking. We're all so hooked into the written word that it can become a safety blanket if we're not careful. We somehow feel "if I write it down, I'll be ok". But the truth is, we won't. 

The Big Idea

So how can you get your colleagues (clients, stakeholders) to buy into your message when you speak?  One way to compel people to listen, follow, and get on board is to strip back the essence of what you want to communicate to 'The Big Idea'. Here's the process:

1. A single sentence that shows what's at stake

Distill everything you want to communicate into a single sentence. That sentence, at its core, needs to show what's at stake. People won't connect emotionally and feel compelled unless they understand that something really IS at stake.

For example, when someone asks you "What's the meeting about?", you could say "It's the 4th quarter report". 

Or you could say, "It's about how we need to make a decisive move now, because the competition is on us, and if we don't do something in the next 3 months then we'll have lost 20% market share."

It can be scary to talk about what's at stake, particularly if you're coupling that with your own unique take on the situation. But if you're passionate about your message, then you need to compel people to listen; and this approach will work. 

2. Find the key messages

Once you have The Big Idea, start to think what the key messages are. Our tip? Make sure you 'front' the reality of the situation. Don't hide or bury anything unpalatable, because speaking about it up front means you have a motivational arc to what you're saying. You're not just telling people what matters - you're explaining WHY.

3. Match your manner to your message

Think about how you'll get your point across; the manner of delivery has to correlate with the message, and the truth of it. And the matching needs to happen even before you begin speaking; it's the atmosphere people feel when they walk into the room. Put plainly, your behaviour needs to match your message. 

4. Polished vs values-led

Speak from the heart, and from a values place, rather than trying to be incredibly polished. It might be counter-intuitive not to rehearse every word of an important message, but by allowing spontaneity, you'll create more trust. That means being more vulnerable, sure, and connecting more fully with how you feel about the situation; but that connection will get (and keep) your colleagues listening and truly engaging with what you have to say. 

Tried and tested strategies

The Big Idea is just one of the models we use with our senior clients to help them deliver important messages with, impact, passion and conviction. Our toolbox of strategies is tried and tested, and we've helped many, many (many) leaders tap into their innate ability to inspire others. It's not about a "gift" or a "talent; it's in all of us.

Imagine being able to look forward to sharing your message; to feeling confident that you will come across with passion. Imagine connecting with an audience that's engaged.

Feeling it? Click here to read all the details about our Lead, Influence, Inspire programme. We've been doing this work for years with clients across Europe; and now we've distilled the strategies into a neat package for you to access right here

Over to you

Have you experienced the challenge of engaging an audience? Would The Big Idea model work for your business situation? Want some more guidance on how to develop your influencing skills? Come on over to Twitter and let us know

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