When you have ten “best” of anything, I wonder about your ability to differentiate what truly is best. I’m not necessarily talking about your children here…I’ll let you claim that all of your children are your favorite without questioning you on it.
What I’m talking about is presenting a clear message without making someone work to understand what is truly important. Doing the heavy lifting so your audience doesn’t need to. “Forcing choice” and making often-difficult decisions. Being willing to cut the meat and not just the fat.
Get the picture? In our lives and jobs we constantly have to communicate our ideas to others. And oftentimes we get only one chance to be heard. How effectively we communicate dictates how successful our message will be.
In most cases you probably have multiple things to communicate. But this isn’t about equal time and fairness. If you’re presenting me some information and I ask what the one key takeaway is, you should be able to tell me the single most important thing you want me to remember.
Most of my job is focused around communications, and I constantly struggle with how to cut to the chase. It’s not easy. There are numerous times when I feel there are several good points to make...nothing seems extraneous and there are multiple ways to communicate something.
But I typically find that the urge to say multiple things is simply a symptom that I really don’t know what I need to say. And I risk doing a disservice to my audience if I don’t summarize it in the most straightforward, easy-to-understand way.
The more we force ourselves to make difficult decisions, the less we make our audience work to find out what we’re trying to say. That’s a major asset in today’s world, where you can only attract so much mindshare in the flood of information we all see on a daily basis.
So how do you determine what’s “best?”
Consider everything you want to say
Break it down into what’s absolutely essential
Present it in the most easy-to-understand way
Say only as much as you think your audience can digest
If you do have multiple points, create some type of “hierarchy” so your main point clearly stands above the others
And now here comes the irony: I probably could have skipped everything before this and just said, “Force yourself to make difficult choices and do the heavy lifting so your audience doesn’t have to.”