Have you sat through presentations, wondering at the end, ‘what was it all about’? Ever become lost soon after the start of a speech? Or been bored within the first 5 minutes? You may have simply been attending the wrong session ….. or it was most likely that the presenter didn’t start with their presentation’s KEY MESSAGE or didn’t even have one.
What is the key message?
It’s the statement delivered to your audience that encapsulates the core essence of your topic. It is the first, primary ‘must have’. Include it, for your credit and accomplishment ….. leave it out at your peril! It must be a tightly worded and accurately written statement of the specific purpose of your talk.
Your presentation MUST have a key message. Leave your audience in absolutely no doubt, what you came to tell them. Don’t gently lead them towards your messages, they won’t last the course. Strike them directly and boldly between the eyes with your message up front. You should broadcast your key message within the first 15 seconds of your talk. Research shows that if you DON’T, you’ll risk losing the audience’s attention …. Once gone never to be regained!
Composing your key message is the most difficult, ‘pains-taking’, time consuming, part of your speech’s preparation. If you don’t spend sufficient time clearly thinking through your key message, you will be wasting your time and your audience’s.
Your Key Message must include:
- The imperative outcome or action or behavioural change you need your audience to take, as a result of listening to you,
- Talking to the audience as individuals (words or phrases such as – you, you’ll be, you will want to, you can do …)
- Reference to an example that you’ll elaborate upon in your presentation’s body
An example of an effective Key Message:
“Because you are all training & HR managers, I’m convinced that by the end of this talk you’ll resolutely want to use our new training and coaching framework package that gives you access to the latest professional development tools and techniques in a flash. In fact I’m sure you’ll be so impressed that you’ll want a copy within 30 minutes of us finishing.”
This Key Message example clearly states:
- WHO the presentation is for – Training and HR managers
- WHAT the attendees will do – use the new training and coaching framework
- WHY they will need to do it – gaining access to the latest developmental tools and techniques
- WHEN they will do it – within 30 minutes of the presentation finishing
This message is just 63 words, meaning you can say it in 25 seconds or less. If attendees don’t want to listen to you after your opening statement, they will still know what you came to tell them. The remainder of your presentation would be supporting detail – but your message will strike home without the details.
A good key message with a ‘call to action‘ like the example (you’ll want the framework within 30 minutes of the presentation ending) ensures that your audience will be eager to engage and continue listening, because you will have told them “what’s in it for them”.
Ensure the audience has understood this message, repeat it in the concluding statements. This also ensures that late arrivals know what your key message was.
Guarantee audience engagement at the start of your presentations. Begin your talk with a well crafted, crucial Key Message!