Simple tips to help refine your key message

There’s one simple key to a successful speech, presentation or media interview: have something to say. Does that sound too obvious? Well, you’d be surprised how many presentations and interviews sink without trace because the speaker hadn’t really figured out the key message she or he wanted the audience to take away with them.

Be crystal clear about what you are trying to tell people. Don’t try to deliver too much information at once.

  • Of the many facets of your work, which aspect are you most anxious to speak about?
  • What is the vital nugget you need to share with this particular audience, on this particular day?
  • If you had to encapsulate your message in one short sentence, what would that sentence be?

The first stage in being able to deliver a clear, effective message to an audience is being comfortable expressing it to yourself, in the fewest words possible.

‘Having something to say’ means focusing and refining your key message.  It means going beyond the over-arching topic that you want to address. Dig down into that topic and identify the essence. This will become the core of your message.

Write it down in a single sentence. Keep that sentence under 30 words. If you can, condense it into 20 words or fewer.

Do the same thing for three or four supporting messages:

  • What follows from your first message?
  • What are its consequences?
  • What does it mean for people?
  • Why is it so important?

Answer these in a series of short sentences.  These will form the basis of your interview or presentation.

Stage One of having something to say is finding the tightest, highest-value expression of the key message.

Stage Two is defining, with equal economy, the most important supporting thoughts.

In defining your key and supporting messages, steer clear of slogans and mission statements. Anything that sounds like an advertisement or empty rhetoric will only cause trouble.

“The media only report stupid or careless answers, not stupid or unfair questions.”

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