Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of focusing on a main message, is brought to you by writing guide guru Marcia Riefer Johnston.
Say One Thing
According to the bestselling book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, if you want your message to stick, you must first figure out the one thing you want to say. Then, say that one thing.
- “Find the core of the idea.”
- “You can’t have five North Stars, [and] you can’t have five ‘most important goals’.”
- “The hard part is weeding out ideas that may be really important but just aren’t the most important idea.”
- “Forced prioritization is really painful. Smart people recognize the value of all the material.”
- “When your remote control has fifty buttons, you can’t change the channel anymore.”
- “If you say three things, you don’t say anything.”
How hard could it be to say just one thing? Hard. Remember your English teacher scribbling in your margin, “Where’s your thesis statement?” Busted! Maybe that never happened to you, but many students fill page after page with information—so many facts, so little space!—without ever bringing it all together to say one thing.
Have you ever sat through a presentation—a perfectly fine one that kept you nodding your head without ever making you nod off—only to discover, when someone asked you about it a few minutes later, that you couldn’t remember what it was about? That presenter may have had a lot to say, but he or she didn’t say one thing.