What’s the Big Idea?

By January 26, 2010SpeakerNotes

In a recent coaching session with eight business leaders, participants were each developing 15-minute presentations about an organizational success story, a project in which they had played a key role.

The purpose of these presentations, to be delivered at an internal leadership conference, was to inspire listeners to adopt the leadership qualities that each speaker had demonstrated, and to empower them to create their own success stories.

For many of the presenters, this would be a defining moment in their careers. Yet, as I listened to them practice, it was clear that nothing about each of these eight presentations was remotely memorable. I could have been anyone, anywhere, listening to a briefing on just about any business case.

The missing ingredient

Every participant knew and described in detail what it took to accomplish what they had done, the results, and the lessons he or she had learned. What they didn’t include was what made their story special — what set it apart from the other seven presenters.

In placing such an emphasis on the facts, each presenter failed to capture the essence of what made his or her story unique, and therefore inspiring and memorable to the audience. This key differentiator can be referred to as your Unique Perspective (UP).

UP: A definition

In today’s short attention span world, communicating clearly and succinctly is no longer enough. You need to “up” the value quotient and make your message memorable with a UP. In presenters’ terms, think of your UP as a single sentence that clearly summarizes the essence or purpose of your presentation, providing focus and differentiating your “story” from others.

When my clients finished their run-through, I asked them some thought-provoking questions:

  • What was it about this project that really got you excited?
  • What makes your story truly unique?
  • What is your key takeaway message?
  • What do you want your listeners to say or do as a result of your presentation?

At first, they seemed baffled. But each soon came to realize that his or her presentation was not having the desired effect — motivating listeners to create their own personal success stories.

Creating a UP is not as easy as it sounds. I find speakers get so wrapped up in wanting to tell everything they know, it is difficult to carve out the core message of their presentation. To begin crafting your own UP, think simple sentence rather than compound to keep your focus as succinct as possible. Next, give some thought to the following:

  • If my audience doesn’t recall anything else, what one single thought do I want them to remember?
  • By the end of this presentation, my audience will  (fill in the blank).

A happy ending to the story

As my clients happily discovered, identifying their UPs made for a more compelling story — and a positive, dynamic reaction from their listeners. By defining your UP at the very start and building your presentation from there, you’ll know just where you’re going — and exactly where your audience will end up.

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