Tim Ferris of the Four Hour Work Week describes his preparation for public speaking. He’s picked up on the fact that people love stories. His preparation ensures that there are 9 to 18 examples in each of his key-note speeches. Plus he has a least three “take-aways”, or actions, for his audience. Which seems like a lot, but it’s why he’s in demand as a speaker.
Some people want facts and research to back up whatever it is you’re trying to get across. But everybody needs examples to illustrate the point we’re trying to make. If we can describe something in such a way that our audience can see it in their head, then we’ve succeeded. It’s harder if the concept we’re trying to describe is not easily described, but then the best speakers and communicators find a way to tie that to concrete language. That’s why they’re the best.
For example, if we’re trying to write a mission statement that doesn’t suck:
“Our mission is to serve the tastiest damn pizza in Wake County.”
“Our mission is to present with integrity the highest-quality entertainment solutions to families.”
See the difference? With the first one, we can close our eyes and imagine being served the tastiest damn pizza. If we’re an employee we understand what’s expected of us, no matter what role we take in the organization. If we closed our eyes and tried to imagine the second one we would fall asleep, because there’s nothing there for our image-hungry brains to hold on to. Nor would we understand what we’re supposed to do. It doesn’t answer the “So What?” question.
Give your audience’s brain an image or story to hold on to, no matter what the communication is.