If people can easily recall, repeat, and transfer your message, you did a great job conveying it.
Today we are overwhelmed with messages. Some are just 140 characters long. Others are much longer, but they are constantly bombarding us—-trying to lure us to acquire and consume information (then repeat the process over and over). Technology—-social media specifically—-allows for constant communication, but easy communication doesn't necessarily translate into messages that are received, understood, and capable of driving action.
At a time when people are tweeting, blogging, e-mailing, and more 24/7, the best way to genuinely connect and create change, says author and CEO Nancy Duarte, is via truly human, in-person presentations. She stresses that everyone in every company should know how to present and communicate that company's messages with clarity and passion.
"Great presentations are like magic," says Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design, author of the book "Slide:ology," and author of the new book, "Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences" (Wiley, 2010, www.duarte.com).
"It takes a lot of work to breathe life into an idea. Spending energy to understand the audience and carefully crafting a message that resonates with them means committing time and discipline to the process. Think about it this way: You likely spend countless hours collaborating and innovating to put forth really good ideas. You should spend just as much energy ensuring they are delivered in a way that is impactful. The payoff is that learning how to present in a captivating way—-be it at a formal event or to a client across the conference room table—-can be your competitive edge in a business environment where too many companies are confusing communication with noise."
Just as Duarte's first book, "Slide:ology," helped presenters become visual communicators, "Resonate" helps presenters make a strong connection with their audiences and lead them to purposeful action. The book is simultaneously an explanation, a how-to guide, and a business justification for story-based messaging.
So how can you make sure you present information in a way that truly resonates?
"If people can easily recall, repeat, and transfer your message, you did a great job conveying it," says Duarte. "To achieve this, you should have a handful of succinct, clear, and repeatable sound bites planted in your presentation that people can effortlessly remember. A thoroughly considered sound bite can create a Something They'll Always Remember (S.T.A.R.) moment—-not only for the people present in the audience but also for the ones who will encounter your presentation through broadcast or social media channels."
To help you get started creating presentations that stick with your audiences, here are a few tips on how you can incorporate repeatable sound bites:
Create crisp messages. Picture each person you speak to as a little radio tower empowered to repeat your key concepts over and over. "Some of the most innocent-looking people have 50,000followers in their social networks," says Duarte. "When one sound bite is sent to their followers, it can get resent hundreds of thousands of times.
Craft a rally cry. Your rally cry will be a small, repeatable phrase that can become the slogan and rallying cry of the masses trying to promote your idea. President Obama's campaign slogan, "Yes We Can," originated from a speech during the primary elections.
Coordinate key phrases with the same language in your press materials. For presentations where the press is present, be sure to repeat critical messages verbatim from your press materials. "Doing so ensures that the press will pick up the right sound bites," explains Duarte. "The same is true for any camera crews who might be filming your presentation. Make sure you have at least a 15- to 30-second message that is so salient it will be obvious to reporters it should be featured in the broadcasts."
Use catchy words. Take time to carefully craft a few messages with catchy words. "For example, Neil Armstrong used the six hours and 40 minutes between his moon landing and first step to craft his historic statement," says Duarte. "Phrases that have historical significance or become headlines don't just magically appear in the moment. They are mindfully planned."
Make them remember. Once you've crafted the message, there are three ways to ensure the audience remembers it: First, repeating the phrase more than once. Second, punctuating it with a pause that gives the audience time to write down exactly what you said. And finally, projecting the words on a slide so they receive the message visually, as well as aurally.
Imitate a famous phrase. "Everyone knows the Golden Rule," says Duarte. "'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Well, an imitation of that famous phrase might be 'Never give a presentation you wouldn't want to sit through yourself.'"
"The future isn't just a place you'll go," says Duarte. "It's a place you will invent. Your ability to shape your future depends on how well you communicate where you want to be when you get there. When ideas are communicated effectively, people follow and change. Words that are carefully framed and spoken are the most powerful means of communication there is."
Nancy Duarte is author of "Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences" and CEO of Duarte Design in Silicon Valley. Duarte Design is focused solely on presentations, whether delivered in person, online, or via mobile device. Duarte has more than 20 years of experience working with global companies and thought leaders. For more information, visit www.duarte.com.