Don’t stand out to be different. Stand out to make a point. – Anthony T. Hincks
I’m currently reading about the art of producing film and radio content and slowly realising just how useful the skills story tellers have learned over time could be in business.
And perhaps the most useful advice is to get to the point fast.
How many times have you watched people struggle to get their point across?
You might have experienced that too – I certainly have.
When you’ve worked on a project for a while there is so much in your head – so much you’ve learned and worked on that it’s hard to know what to talk about first.
Experienced sales people know not to spill their chocolates in the lobby.
Many of us want to please others – we genuinely want to help and do things that others will find helpful.
And so, when we’re asked about something we rush to talk about everything we know – come up with every way we can possibly help.
But the chances are that because we don’t really understand the nature of the problem what we’re doing isn’t really answering the real questions being asked.
At the core of every message there should be a point.
You can meander, circle, perhaps eventually spiral your way to the centre.
That’s what most people do.
The standard report format of introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion are almost never useful in real-life situations.
They are essential when it comes to actually doing work.
But they are less than useless when it comes to presenting your work.
If you’ve ever spoken to a “real” business person – the kind of person that lives and breathes business you’ll know that they have two defining characteristics.
One is that they are usually too stubborn and single minded to realise that what they are doing is completely wrong and doomed to fail – and so they don’t.
Fail, that is.
And the second is that they have the attention span of a gnat.
A gnat with ADHD.
I know a few people like that and when I try and describe almost any of the things that I write about in these posts – things which you read with great patience – their eyes glaze over almost instantly.
It just doesn’t work for them.
They would never bother to read these long passages.
They just want to know – what’s the point, what does it mean for me, what do I need to do?
They trust that you know what to do – after all you’ve done the work and all the boring stuff.
They want the ten second version.
Which is – get to the point as soon as you can in your presentation.
Rather than working your way from the outside to the centre, start at the middle and work your way out.
Make your point – then back up a little and explain your reasoning, and then back up and present your evidence.
It’s natural to do the work outside in – to go from looking at the big picture to working out exactly what is the right approach.
It’s tempting to present things the same way – but that would be a mistake.
The natural way to present is inside out – start from the precise, specific benefit that the person listening to you will get and then explain why it’s going to work.
Because the one thing you can be certain of is that the people who make the decisions didn’t get there by wasting their time.
Don’t waste it now.