Message development

The ‘5S’ plan for powerful, persuasive key messages

The sharpest tool in my communication skills training box is a message development exercise I call ‘Answers First’.

It is a tightly focused exercise, which I use to prepare company spokespeople for a specific meeting, negotiating session, presentation or interview. It involves identifying, honing and prioritising a brief series of key messages, each supported by an equally brief series of evidential proof points; anticipating likely questions; then working out how to link each question back to one or more of the messages, if necessary via a ‘reactive’ message developed for that purpose.…

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Persuasion: why facts don’t work

As a communication skills coach I work regularly with individuals and groups to identify, prioritise and illustrate the key facts that support the arguments they need to put forward in presentations, media interviews, negotiations and other critical meetings.

There is an assumption that facts are the ultimate, undeniable persuaders, in the face of which the strongest opposition has no choice but to melt away.

But in our ‘post-truth’- era, the power and the primacy of factual information is looking increasingly dubious as a tool for persuasion.…

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Why your passion leaves me cold

Why your passion leaves me cold

 These days it seems that everyone has to look passionate, to sound passionate and to feel passionate if they want to be taken seriously.

Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall says her party must become ‘as passionate about wealth creation as wealth distribution’. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is passionate about free education. McDonald’s, currently facing mass protests from its staff about low pay, is ‘passionate about satisfying our customers, growing our business, making money and having fun’.…

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Effective communication and the rule of three

In common with most communication skills trainers I know, I advise the people I work with to identify three key messages for media interviews and presentations. Why three? Why not two, four or five? And wouldn’t one message be the most powerful of all?

Well, no. A shedload of evidence and examples suggests that in oratory three is a magic number, just as it is in written communication, storytelling, all aspects of culture, religion, comedy, advertising slogans and sport.

What would be the point of stories if they had a beginning and an end, but no middle?…

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