Have you ever walked away from a conversation more confused than when you started? This happens because our messages suffer from too many ideas, not too few. We don’t get confused because there is a lack of information. Rather, there is so much oversharing that the main idea lacks clarity. It’s one of the biggest yet most common mistake we make.
We are passionate about our topics. We often believe that because we are excited to share details of what we know, our listeners are equally excited to hear it. Wrong. By trying to get our point across by over-talking just frustrates those we speak with. We typically overshare in too short of a time period, making our message lack structure and impact.
Challenge #1: Too much information in too little time.
There is a Japanese dietary principle called Hara Hachi Bu, which means, “eat only until 80% full.” The idea is to not stuff yourself until you can’t eat another bite but to eat until the point of satisfaction.
The same idea applies to conversations, discussions and presentations. Your listeners are not begging you to share to point that their heads are stuffed. Instead, they want you to be clear, concise and to finish on time.
We’ve all experienced having 30 minutes allotted to speak and 45 minutes worth of information to share. Instead of taking the time to examine what our audience needs to know in 30 minutes, we try to squeeze it all in. It’s like cramming clothes into a suitcase – we know they can’t all possibly fit, but it doesn’t stop us from trying. Unlike the suitcases, we leave our listeners to unpack what we have overcommunicated, leaving them to decipher what was relevant and important.
To make sure your listeners remember what you’ve told them, follow The Rule of Three. It’s a simple principle that relates to most memory concepts, and also why phone numbers and Social Security numbers come in groups of three. They’re easy to remember and quick to recall.
Before you speak, consider the three main points you wish to share. If you go beyond three points, your audience won’t remember any of them.
Challenge #2: A lack of structure and clarity.
Have you conversed with someone whose message is all over the place? Either they’re rambling or their thoughts are tied together without rhyme or reason.
Without a framework for your three points, your audience will perceive your message as discombobulated. When you design your opening and closing statements, include your opinion. It immediately tells the audience where you are coming from in your conversation.
Next, establish a framework for your three points. If you want your listener to act on what you say, your message needs to provide a plan, a purpose and a call to action. Tell them about your plan to address the situation at hand, then share the purpose of the plan and what it will accomplish. Lastly, tell them what you want them to do.
This framework keeps information in a structured format that outlines the what, why and how of your point. It gives your audience everything they need to know to act upon your idea.
Challenge #3: When the conversation lacks impact.
To avoid rambling, many speakers write out their message and read from it during presentations or high-stakes conversations. They lose their listener because they lack the nonverbal communication elements necessary to make an impact. Their eyes remain stuck to their notes. Their bodies are stiff and stationary. The listeners fail to hear the message because they focus on the speaker’s robotic behaviors instead of the points they’re trying to make. As a result, their message lacks impact. The audience hears what they say, but it fails to stick.
To make an impact with your listeners, you want to draw them into the conversation and engage them with eye contact, gestures and body movement. The only way to accomplish this is to break free from long-winded notes.
Before a high-stakes presentation, outline your message using only bullet points. Keep main points and subpoints short and concise without filler words. You’re not trying to write an essay. You need to convey your points in a clear, brief way. Allow your key points and subpoints to give you direction, purpose and flexibility. Practice your presentation using the bullet points written so that you will become comfortable with their order and structure. Then, allow yourself the freedom to connect with your listeners.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that the more information you share, the more your listeners will learn. The opposite is true. Instead, focus on purposeful points structured in a way that’s easy for your audience to remember. Engage your audience so your message creates impact. As a result, you’ll influence everyone to tune in and act upon what you have to say.