Quick. Think of the last meeting or conference you attended. Can you repeat anything you heard – word for word? If not, everything that was said there is out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
As speakers, we don’t want our insights to be out-of-sight, out-of-mind; we want them to stay top-of-mind.
Are you preparing an important communication?
Whether it’s a report to your boss or board, a TEDx talk or conference keynote, or a webinar or funding pitch, its success depends a lot on whether people can remember anything you said.
Because if they can’t, all the hours (weeks?) you spent collecting your research, organizing your thoughts, preparing your slides and practicing your speech … just went down the drain.
The good news is, there is a step-by-step process for being more memorable.
Step 1. Condense Your Primary Point into a Ten Words or Less Sentence
What is a shift you want people to make? An action you want them to take? Condense that into a single sentence with a verb to prompt people to take the desired action. Follow author Elmore Leonard’s advice and “leave out the parts people skip.” You know it’s perfect when you wouldn’t change a thing.
Step 2. Use Word Play to Turn that Sentence into a Phrase-That-Pays
What’s a phrase-that-pays? It’s a crafted one-liner that is repeatable and retweetable. You want it to resonate, which is defined as “to have extended impact beyond that which is apparent” and for people to be able to repeat it after hearing it once. Because if they can’t repeat it, they didn’t get it. And if they didn’t get it, you won’t get their greenlight or go-ahead.
Step 3: Put Your Rally Cry Into a Rhythm
In one sentence, what do you want people to do differently? Just write it down even it doesn’t sing. Now, see those words as a jigsaw puzzle. Right now, the words probably don’t fit. They feel awkward, sound clunky. Start talking out loud and experimenting with synonyms. Re-order the words and try different combinations. Keep playing with variations until the words fall into place. Your ears tell you when you’ve found the perfect mix because there will be a rythym, a cadence, that sounds right.
For example, say, “If you see something, say something.” “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”
Feel how easily those words roll off the tongue? When a phrase is fun to say, people voluntarity share it which takes it viral. This Week Magazine reported that “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas” is “one of the most recognized ad campaigns in any industry and has generated billions of dollars in additional revenue.” That’s just one example of why crafting a rhythmic rally cry isn’t petty word-play, it’s a bottom-line pay-off.
Step 4: Use Alliteration – Words That Start with the Same Sound
Have you ever put one of those “cardboard insulating sleeves” around a hot cup of coffee so you didn’t burn your fingers? Entrepreneur Jay Sorenson saw an opportunity. He knew it’s hard to build a business around an unpronounceable name. So, he played with alliteration, came up with Java Jacket and cornered the market. In fact, Jay says, “Customers who meant to call our competitors call us because they can’t remember our competitors’ name.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have customers calling you because they remember your name and not your competitors? Increase the likelihood of that happening by creating a name/tagline with words that start with the same sound.
Step 5. Use Rhyme If You Want To Be Remembered Over Time
The U.S. government was concerned that the number of injuries from car accidents was increasing. So, they launched a public service campaign to convince people to wear their safety belts. The original tagline? Buckle Up for Safety. Yawn. No one noticed. No one cared. No one changed their behavior.
Back to the drawing board. Second time around, they incorporated rhyme and rhythm and came up with Click It or Ticket. That intriguing phrase not only got people’s attention, compliance went up and injuries went down. What does that prove? That a well-crafted phrase-that-pays can change behavior. It might even save lives.
Step 6. Pause and Punch Your Phrase-That-Pays so It POPS
People often race through high-stakes, high-pressure communications. They’re so nervous, they are sub-consciously trying to get the presentation “over with.” The problem? People can’t remember our content if the words are a blur and we rush and blush through it.
Arthur Levine, editor at Scholastic of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, came up to me at Maui Writers Conference after watching me emcee and said, “Sam, I like the way you speak. You put space around your words.”
When I coach clients, we craft a repeatable, retweetable call to action for their big idea. Then, tehy rehearse saying it with space around their words. They practice putting a three beat pause before … and after … their phrase-that-pays so people are more likely to absorb it and imprint it.
So, what’s a high-stakes communication you’ve got coming up?
What do you want people to remember? What action do you want them to take?
Have you already crafted a pithy, profound one-liner to reinforce that point?
If so, good for you. If not, use this process so you’re the one people remember, you’re the one they talk about, and you’re the one whose words make an enduring difference.
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Intrigue Expert Sam Horn is on a mission to help people create strategic communications that scale their impact for good. She loves coaching people on how to be in their wheelhouse when they speak so they deliver quality talks that add value for all involved.